1139 GMT May 21, 2022
The highly-contagious Delta variant is causing a surge in new COVID-19 cases even in countries with high vaccination rates and experts warn that inoculation campaigns are in a race against time to contain it, according to AFP.
For the moment the pandemic is still slowing down with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting the lowest number of new cases worldwide since February and decreasing deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
But concerns are growing about the fast-spreading variant, prompting new restrictions in countries that had previously managed to control their epidemics.
Cases are on the rise in Russia, Australia and across parts of Africa, in part due to Delta.
There are increasing signs that mainland Europe is seeing a sharp rise in cases too.
The EU is certainly worried about the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant which evidence suggests is around 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first found in England, causes more hospitalizations and slightly reduces the efficacy of vaccines, CNBC reported.
A number of European countries have introduced further restrictions on visitors from the UK, but experts believe it’s only a matter of time before it takes off in mainland Europe – and there are strong signals it already has.
On Tuesday, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said that the Delta variant now represents some 20% of COVID-19 cases in France, up from last week’s estimate of it representing 9-10% of cases.
Germany’s public health body, the Robert Koch Institute, said this week that the Delta variant accounted for around 36% of the cases in the week of June 15 - 20, up 15% from the week before. Lothar Wieler, president of the RKI, also told officials the variant now already represents more than 50% of registered cases in Germany, Deutsche Welle reported Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Italy’s national health institute said Friday that cases attributed to COVID variants Delta and Kappa (a “variant of interest,” according to the World Health Organization, that’s related to the Delta variant) have surged in Italy in the past month, accounting for nearly 17% of total COVID cases.
Spain and Portugal have also reported a rise in Delta variant cases as have Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey. In addition, the Delta plus variant – a mutation of the Delta mutation – has been detected in pockets of Europe too.
Germany and France are among the countries that have imposed quarantine restrictions on British travelers and Berlin has gone one step further, calling on the EU to take a unified approach when it comes to requiring British travelers who come to the bloc to quarantine.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said last week that it estimates that by the end of August the Delta variant will represent 90% of all COVID viruses circulating in the EU.
In the United States last week 35 percent of positive tests that were sequenced were identified as the Delta variant, up from about 10 percent on June 5 – numbers similar to what is being observed in Israel.
The Delta variant has been reported in 14 African countries, accounting for most new cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, the WHO has said, calling for a vaccine "sprint" across the continent.