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The Delta variant is spreading in Europe and can’t be stopped

French police walk on the streets during the French Midsummer Festival of Music on June 21, 2021 in Paris, France.

Rafael Yaghobzadeh | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

LONDON – The coronavirus delta variant, first discovered in India, has now spread around the world, causing further waves of infection in countries like the UK

Now there are increasing signs that there is also a sharp increase in cases on the European mainland.

The EU is certainly concerned about the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, which has been shown to be 60% more transmissible than the alpha variant first found in England, causing more hospital stays and slightly reducing the effectiveness of vaccines.

A number of European countries have further restrictions on visitors from the UK, but experts believe it is only a matter of time before it launches in mainland Europe – and the signals are already strong.

On Tuesday, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the Delta variant now accounts for around 20% of Covid-19 cases in France, up from last week’s estimate of 9-10% of cases.

The German health department, the Robert Koch Institute, said this week that the Delta variant accounted for around 36% of the cases in the week from June 15 to 20, 15% more than in the previous week. Lothar Wieler, President of the RKI, also told officials that the variant already represents more than 50% of the registered cases in Germany, Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Italy’s national health institute said on Friday that the cases attributed to the Covid variants Delta and Kappa (an “interesting variant” which, according to the World Health Organization, is related to the Delta variant) increased in Italy over the past month and this is so make up almost 17% of all Covid cases.

Spain and Portugal have also reported increases in delta variant cases, as have Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey. In addition, the Delta Plus variant – a mutation of the Delta mutation – has also been detected in parts of Europe.

Read more: Delta Covid variant has a new mutation called “Delta plus”: You need to know that

Too little too late?

Germany and France are among the countries that have placed quarantine restrictions on British travelers, and Berlin has gone a step further, calling on the EU to take a unified approach when it comes to sheltering British travelers coming to the block To quarantine.

The move could likely be a case of too little or too late action, experts note.

“I doubt that European countries, with their open economies and more restricted border controls, quarantine measures, and tracking and tracing, will be able to push back deltas for long … especially given that there is already extensive local distribution,” said Tom Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist and biostatistician the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, told CNBC on Tuesday.

He noted that the actual number of infections in Europe from the delta variant could be significantly higher than current estimates suggest.

“I estimate that in Portugal 90% of diagnosed cases are now Delta, but with a strong geographic focus on Lisbon. However, many other countries in Europe such as Spain, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Netherlands are not far behind.” “With over 50% of all diagnosed cases, they are now estimated to be Delta,” he noted.

The Delta variant now accounts for 95% of all new cases sequenced in the UK, and where the UK goes, the US and Europe are likely to follow, experts believe. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control announced last week that the Delta variant will account for 90% of all Covid viruses circulating in the EU by the end of August.

Vaccination to the rescue?

Covid vaccination programs could help if countries in Europe can vaccinate quickly enough. A study by Public Health England in May showed that both doses of the Covid vaccines (the most widely available vaccines in Europe) developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University and Pfizer-BioNTech provide effective protection against the Delta variant. However, both vaccines were significantly less effective after just one shot.

Therefore, the race is now on in Europe to fully vaccinate millions of people, and especially the young people who were the last to receive a Covid vaccination. Data from England shows again that the young, unvaccinated, over 50 years old and people who received only one dose of a Covid vaccine are most at risk of infection from the Delta variant.

Wenseleers from KU Leuven agreed that “vaccinating at full speed and encouraging people in certain risk groups to continue to exercise caution are now likely to be the most important options for the EU”, although more intensive border controls and tracking and tracing could help to buy some time until the vaccination campaign is more advanced, which will help prevent a resurgence, “he added.

The wider economy

Problems are already brewing in the EU over the prospects for the summer tourist season and whether to let the British and others into the region, especially when tourism is a key component of their economies for a number of EU countries such as Greece and Portugal.

How a potential new wave of Delta variant infections will affect the economy and reopening of the region is also not yet in sight, but economists are keeping a close eye on them.

“The delta wave is rolling in,” said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, in a statement on Wednesday. “After Great Britain with a delay of about seven weeks, the registered SARS-CoV-2 infections in the euro zone are apparently beginning to increase amid large regional differences.”

In assessing whether the “new wave” will jeopardize Berenberg’s overconsensual growth forecasts for the euro zone and the UK (this year GDP growth of 4.7% in the euro zone and 7% in the UK), Schmieding believes forecasts are not material influenced.

“Thanks to the rapid progress in vaccination, we believe it is unlikely that the medical systems in the UK or on the continent will again be so heavily burdened that serious economic activity restrictions will be required again to keep medical risks under control … must monitor the risks closely . “

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