The delta variant of the coronavirus has overtaken all other variants of concern, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
“Less than 1% each of alpha, beta and gamma are currently circulating. It’s really predominantly delta around the world,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19.
According to Van Kerkhove, the delta variant is so highly transmissible it has replaced other variants circulating around the world.
Hundreds of people demonstrated Tuesday in Australia’s second-largest city against coronavirus restrictions the government imposed on the construction industry.
Officials announced that construction sites in Melbourne would be closed for two weeks amid concerns that the movement of workers was contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
Construction workers are also now required to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine before being allowed to return to work.
Victoria state, where Melbourne is located, reported 603 new cases on Tuesday, the most infections there in a single day this year.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday that fines for breaking coronavirus protocols would increase starting in November.
The changes would increase the fine for someone intentionally failing to comply with a COVID-19 order from about $2,800 to $8,400. Those breaking the restrictions could also face up to six months in prison.
Businesses that violate coronavirus restrictions could face fines of up to $10,500.
“Our success has been really based on the fact that people by and large have been compliant,” Ardern said at a news conference. “However, there has been the odd person that has broken the rules and put others at risk.”
Meanwhile, Governor Jay Inslee, of the western U.S. state of Washington, is asking the federal government for help dealing with the strain on hospitals as the delta variant drives large numbers of infections.
Inslee sent a letter Monday to White House pandemic coordinator Jeffrey Zients saying hospitals in his state are at or beyond capacity and that he is requesting military personnel to help staff hospitals.
“Once the delta variant hit Washington state, COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocketed,” Inslee said. “From mid-July to late August, we saw hospitalizations double about every two weeks. The hospitals have surged to increase staffed beds and stretch staff and have canceled most non-urgent procedures but are still over capacity across the state.”
New daily infections and the number of people hospitalized in Washington are at or near their highest levels during the pandemic.
Washington health officials report 69% of people ages 12 years and older in the state are fully vaccinated.
That is higher than the national figure, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 64% of the population ages 12 and older being fully vaccinated.
The new death toll from the virus in the United States was 2,302 on Monday — the highest recorded since March, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.