Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Stockholm/Copenhagen, 2021-07-23:

The SARS-COV-2 Delta variant of concern is spreading quickly across Europe and has now become the dominant strain across much of the region, according to new data.

Surveillance data reported to WHO/Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that between 28 June and 11 July 2021 the Delta variant was dominant in the majority (19 countries) of the 28 countries that reported sufficiently complete genetic sequencing information. Of these 19 countries, the median proportion of all nationally sequenced virus isolates detected showed that the proportion of Delta variant was 68.3%, overtaking the previously dominant Alpha variant (22.3%) across the region .[i]

Based on current trends the Delta variant will be the globally dominant strain over the coming months and has already been identified in almost all European countries. It will continue to spread, displacing the circulation of other variants unless a new more competitive virus emerges.

Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO/Europe’s Regional Director said, “We are far from out of the woods in terms of the pandemic ending and sadly in many countries in our region we’re seeing a significant rise in cases associated with the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Despite tremendous efforts by Member States to vaccinate people across the region, millions more remain unvaccinated and therefore at risk of ending up in hospital. The good news is that the data clearly shows that receiving a full vaccination series significantly reduces the risk of severe disease and death. When called to do so, people should get vaccinated.”

Dr Andrea Ammon, ECDC Director said, “We need to remain vigilant and continue to use common sense to prevent the spread of the virus. This means getting a full course of vaccination as soon as the opportunity arises and maintaining physical distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowded spaces, and wearing a mask when necessary. These are measures that we know work to protect ourselves and others. We should think of these as ‘anti-lock down measures’ because they can help prevent the spread of disease without having to shut down large parts of society.”

WHO and ECDC urge priority groups, such as older people, people with chronic diseases and healthcare workers to receive a complete COVID-19 vaccine course to protect themselves, and the vulnerable people they come in contact with, from severe disease.

In addition, a fast roll-out of vaccinations to all eligible groups is strongly recommended. Where the Delta variant is spreading, intensive implementation of current public health measures, including increased access to testing, will be required to control COVID-19 transmission, particularly while vaccination progress is still not sufficiently high in many countries.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been rising across Europe each week for the past four weeks. Notification rates have increased across all age groups, but most rapidly among 15 to 24-year-olds where a 5-fold increase in reported cases has been observed over the past month.

Dr Kluge has a clear message for those countries easing public health and social measures in the European region:

“WHO recommends that countries increase access to free of charge testing, expand sequencing, incentivize quarantine for contacts and isolation for confirmed cases, strengthen contact tracing to break chains of transmission and ensure those most at risk among our populations are vaccinated.”

To help reduce the risk of being infected with the virus this summer, follow WHO Europe’s Summer Sense practical measures:

Travel is not risk free. Travelling and gathering in groups can increase your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you want to travel, think about the need and assess your risks. Your decision counts for ending this pandemic. If you decide to travel, do it safely:

o   Remember the 3 W’s – wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.

o   Measure your risk door-to-door: From the moment you close a door to the moment you open it again, assess step by step the risk you are exposed to and take the right precautions. Cleaning hands frequently, keeping a safe distance and wearing a mask are proven to protect you. 

o   Avoid the three Cs: More than the travel itself, it is the place that matters. Settings that are Closed, Confined or Crowded, will put you at higher risk of being infected with COVID-19. Choose open, ventilated settings, keep at least one-metre distance from others, and wear your mask. In many settings, it might be impossible to avoid all three Cs.

[i] If all the national proportions of sequenced viruses that were Delta variants were put into ascending order, the median value is the one that splits the top half from the bottom half.

WHO #SummerSense:

The #SummerSense campaign aims to ensure people exercise common sense and are cautious while enjoying the warmer months, thus maintaining efforts to bring the pandemic to an end sooner.

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