The delta variant, the most contagious version of Sars-Cov-2, could spread across mainland Europe if countries do not speed up their vaccinations and step up contagion care, said Wednesday (23) the European Center for Infectious Disease Control (ECDC).
First identified in India, the delta variant has spread in the United Kingdom and already appears today in 98% of sequenced cases, although the country has since January taken the lead in vaccination. As of Wednesday, only 19% of UK adults had yet to receive a dose of the vaccine; almost 60% took both.
In the ECDC calculation, the delta variant could account for 70% of new Covid-19 cases by the end of July and 90% by the end of August if no further action is taken. This happens by combining a mutant up to 60% more contagious than alpha (identified in England) with greater circulation and proximity between people in the summer.
Most EU countries have removed anti-contagion restrictions, while the lineage has grown exponentially, but by vastly different percentages.
In Portugal for example, a tourist destination highly sought after by the British, the government claims that the delta is identified in more than 60% of the sequences carried out in Lisbon and in the Tagus valley. According to Portuguese data, the number of new daily cases has more than doubled from 500 in May – when borders were opened to British travelers – to more than 1,000 in mid-June.
In Italy, the percentage is estimated to exceed 20%, while in France it has not yet reached 10%. These figures are not, however, good indicators of the presence of the variant, as the amount and regularity of sequencing are not uniform.
The fear of a new wave of infections made Portugal “get scolded” on Tuesday (22) by Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany – a country whose citizens also tend to invade Portuguese beaches during the ‘summer. She called the lack of coordination between EU countries in reopening to tourists a “flashback”.
“Now we have a situation in Portugal that maybe could have been avoided, and that’s why we have to work even harder there,” the German leader said in an interview following an approval event the post-pandemic economic recovery plan.
The release for tourists from the UK — which was also adopted by Spain, Croatia and Greece, for example —, took place against key European Commission directives. The country was not on the whitelist of non-essential travel, nor in the latest expansion.
In ECDC calculations, “any relaxation during the summer months could lead to a rapid and significant increase in daily cases in all age groups, with an associated increase in hospitalizations and deaths, potentially reaching the same levels. only in the fall of 2020 “.
Although preliminary results show vaccines are effective against more severe cases caused by the delta, center director Andrea Ammon said there is a risk of hospitalization for those who have not completed the doses. required.
According to the most recent data, 33.9% of adults are fully vaccinated and 24.8% are partially vaccinated, in an average of 30 countries on the European continent.
The concern is mainly with young people, who were at the bottom of the priority queue: data from the UK shows that they are currently the main victims of the variant. “It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate widely during the summer, especially among young people. This increases the risk of transmission and serious illness and death for the most vulnerable, ”said Ammon.
Studies in the UK have indicated that the risk of hospitalization in people infected with the delta variant may be double that of the alpha variant – one of the reasons England has postponed the complete removal of the drugs. movement and person-to-person restrictions. contact person.
The variants should not be of such concern if governments take serious and proven measures to prevent transmission, the WHO (World Health Organization) said on Monday (21). The organization recommends a testing program to identify contagion, trace contacts and isolate contaminated, in addition to physical distance, mask use and hand hygiene.