The World Health Organisation (WHO) is urging people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to continue wearing face masks, as it is concerned about the rise of the Delta variant.
During a press briefing last Friday, the WHO asked countries with high vaccination rates not to relax their measures too quickly.
"Vaccine alone will not stop community transmission," said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director-general. "People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hygiene, physical distance, avoid crowding."
"People cannot feel safe just because they’ve had the two doses," she stressed. "They still need to protect themselves."
In light of the outbreaks of highly infectious variants, especially the Delta variant, in many countries, fully vaccinated people should continue to "play it safe" because a large portion of the world remains unvaccinated.
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"The emergence of new variants makes it even more important that we use all the means at our disposal to prevent transmission," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO, stressing that even vaccinated persons should continue to adhere to the measures.
While different countries have different recommendations to their population regarding masks, caution at all times remains the most important, according to Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the WHO’s director-general.
"I think first and foremost we have to be careful with the message that once you are vaccinated, you can just go ahead and do whatever you want," he added.
Situation in Belgium
The Delta variant (which was first detected in India) is spreading rapidly, leading several countries - such as Israel - to re-implement several measures, such as the obligation to wear a face mask while indoors.
In Belgium, the National Crisis Centre announced during a press conference on Wednesday that the Delta variant was responsible for approximately 23% of the current infections.
"That is almost a quarter of the infections, compared to 16% in the previous week," said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.
While it was expected that the Delta variant is increasing further, "the number of infections with the Delta variant is still rising relatively slowly, in absolute numbers," he said.
"Mainly, this is due to the generally declining circulation of the virus in Belgium."