"The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it," World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday in Geneva about the global COVID-19 outbreak that is now being driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and that infections in vaccinated people may be as transmissible as those in the unvaccinated.
"WHO's goal remains to support every country to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by the end of September, at least 40% by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year," the WHO chief said, but added that the realization of the goals is "a long way off."
"So far, just over half of countries have fully vaccinated 10% of their population, less than a quarter of countries have vaccinated 40%, and only three countries have vaccinated 70%," Tedros said.
He recalled that WHO had earlier "warned of the risk that the world's poor would be trampled in the stampede for vaccines" and that "the world was on the verge of a catastrophic moral failure" because of vaccine inequity.
"And yet the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust," Tedros said. "All regions are at risk, but none more so than Africa."
"Many African countries have prepared well to roll out vaccines, but the vaccines have not arrived," he said. "Less than 2% of all doses administered globally have been in Africa," with only 1.5% of the continent's population fully vaccinated.
The WHO chief said his organization was "issuing an urgent call" for $7.7 billion for the launching of the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response, or RADAR, a response to the delta surge that would provide tests, treatments and vaccines.
He also said COVAX; which provides vaccines to lower-income countries, needs additional funding.
"The question is not whether the world can afford to make these investments," Tedros said, "it's whether it can afford not to."
U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that civilian federal government employees must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing and wear masks.
On Friday, a reporter asked Biden as he was leaving the White House whether Americans should expect more guidelines and restrictions related to the coronavirus. "In all probability," he said.
Biden also noted that on Thursday almost a million Americans received COVID-19 vaccinations and said, "I am hopeful that people are beginning to realize how essential it is to move" in response to the coronavirus threat.
The White House said the average number of people getting their first shot of the coronavirus vaccines this week was up 30% over last week.
Also Friday, Walmart joined a growing number of U.S. companies issuing mandates for its workers to be vaccinated, saying the policy would apply to all employees at its headquarters along with managers who travel within the United States.
The Broadway League said Friday that audiences will be required to show proof of vaccination to watch Broadway performances and will be required to wear masks.
Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane said it would begin a COVID lockdown on Saturday amid rising case numbers. Neighboring areas will also be subject to the stay-at-home orders.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that 80% of adults must be vaccinated before the country will consider reopening its border.
In Israel, health officials began administering coronavirus booster shots Friday to people older than 60 who have been fully vaccinated in an effort to stop a recent spike in cases.
Italy's Health Institute announced Friday that the delta variant accounted for almost all new COVID-19 cases in the country at nearly 95% of cases as of July 20.
German officials announced Friday that unvaccinated travelers arriving in the country will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center on Saturday reported there have been more than 197 million global COVID-19 infections.