WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus stated this on Wednesday in remarks to the 8th meeting of the Emergency Committee on COVID-19, established under International Health Regulations (IHR), a treaty that guides global response to public health risks.
In the speech posted on the WHO website, the director-general recalled the sustained decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent months, driven largely by increasing vaccination rates in Europe and North America, but sounded the alarms over the fresh reversal of that positive trend.
"Unfortunately…we are now in the early stages of a third wave," he said.
Last week marked the fourth consecutive week of rising cases of COVID-19 globally, with increases recorded in all but one of WHO's six regions. Deaths are also rising again, after 10 weeks of steady decline.
Meanwhile, the director-general said the virus was continuing to evolve, resulting in more transmissible variants.
"The Delta variant is now in more than 111 countries and we expect it to soon be the dominant COVID-19 strain circulating worldwide if it isn't already," Ghebreyesus said.
The spread of the Delta variant – one of the main drivers of the current increase in transmission – was also being fuelled by increased social mobility and the inconsistent use of proven public health and social measures.
He drew the Committee's attention to the ongoing "shocking disparity" in the global distribution of vaccines, as well as unequal access to life-saving tools, reiterating his concern that inequity had created a two-track pandemic.
According to him, one track for countries with the greatest access to vaccines, who are lifting restrictions and reopening their societies, and a second track for those without vaccine access, who are left at the mercy of the virus.