The Delta coronavirus variant, previously known as the Indian variant, could soon be responsible for as much as 90% of Europe’s Covid-19 infections, according to the European Union’s governing body for infectious diseases.
Scientists from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned of the much more virulent spread of the Delta variant, urging a faster rate of vaccination for those who may be hestitant.
On Wednesday, the ECDC said that it believes the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in India, to be the most prevalent strain of coronavirus infection in Europe at the present time.
“It is very likely that the delta variant will circulate heavily this summer,” declared ECDC Director Andrea Ammon.
She also stressed that current data suggests those who have only received one vaccination are still susceptible to infection from the Delta mutation — although she stated that a second shot offered a high level of protection.
In light of these findings, she urged people in each age cohort to obtain their second shot as soon as possible.
The World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Friday that it is now “well on its way to becoming the dominant variant globally because of its increased transmissibility.”
The Delta mutation of the coronavirus is already causing a new spike in the numbers of new coronavirus cases in Europe — in the United Kingdom and Portugal in particular.
Delta variant reported around world, causing reimposition of strict coronavirus measures
This sudden rise in coronavirus infections on the continent is occurring, according to global health officials, even as immunization rates in many nations are already quite high and are increasing in other areas around the world.
The Delta variant cases reported in Great Britain and Portugal have forced officials to either reimpose their previous lockdown restrictions or even to put aside their much-anticipated plans for lifting pandemic-related rules.
At the present time, public health officials in France, Germany, and Spain are continuing to monitor virus clusters that have been caused by the Delta variant. Greece has not seen many cases of the variant.
Thankfully, according to the latest findings, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the first to have come onto the worldwide market, have been shown to be very effective against this new strain.
Existing vaccines 88% effective against Delta variant
A recent study on the part of Public Health England demonstrated that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had proven 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant — compared with the staggering 93% effectiveness against the Alpha variant, which was the first mutation to be detected in the UK.
After just one dose, however, the vaccine only provided 33% protection against the variant, pointing to a need to get that second shot if one has already begun the vaccination process.
The ECDC officials stated on Wednesday that the Delta coronavirus mutation is 40%-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.
Scientists at the infectious disease authority say that they expects it to continue its lightning-fast spread, accounting for as much as 70% of all European coronavirus infections by early August.
“The delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants and we estimate that by the end of August it will represent ninety percent” of new cases in the EU, the agency stated in its announcement on Wednesday.
Asian spread of Delta variant coincides with Tokyo Olympics
Also on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her support for European Union-wide quarantine rules for those arriving from areas where the Delta variant is especially prevalent.
“In our country, if you come from Britain, you have to go into quarantine — that’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see,” she told the Bundestag.
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset announced today that his country would lift coronavirus restrictions sooner than expected as the number of infections there continues to fall. As of Saturday, masks will no longer be required outdoors; restaurants, bars and discos will be allowed to open at full capacity; and large-scale events of up to 10,000 people can be attended by those with proof of vaccination.
“It’s a big step, a little bit courageous, and we can’t get overconfident,” Berset said. “We’re seeking to strike the right balance.”
The concern over the Delta variant comes as the world ramps up for the greatest sports event on the globe, the Summer Olympics, to be held in Tokyo.
Tokyo 2021 organizers are now saying that alcohol will be banned at Olympic venues as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the Games, according to a report from the Kyodo news agency.
The Games, postponed from 2020, will begin on July 23 and last for two weeks.
In China, clouds are appearing on the horizon once again as direct flights from Shenzhen to Beijing were suspended until at least July 1 in response to elevated coronavirus figures.
China’s most populous province of Guangdong is battling a new outbreak, with 170 confirmed local cases between May 21 and June 21, though no new confirmed cases were reported on Wednesday.
Fiji, which is closely linked to India economically and socially, is the site of yet another new coronavirus outbreak. The Red Cross has called for faster vaccination rollouts in vulnerable Pacific island nations as a surge in cases threatens to overwhelm the health system of the small island nation.
The two largest hospitals on Fiji have been converted into dedicated coronavirus treatment facilities, and the number of infections has doubled every nine days since a second wave began in April.
Red Cross Pacific chief Katie Greenwood said that the situation has been a “serious wake-up call” showing the need for more urgency across the Pacific island region.
“In the Pacific, it’s a critical time to ramp up vaccinations… we can’t let our guard down,” she urged.
Only about 1% of Fiji’s population of 930,000 has been fully inoculated, and the Health Ministry said reluctance among citizens to obtain the vaccinations is causing a strain on hospitals.