Efforts must be reinforced to prevent the transmission of the Delta variant of coronavirus as it has become the most dominant strain across much of Europe, top health authorities in Europe warned on Friday.
The SARS-COV-2 Delta variant is moving fast across Europe based on surveillance data collected between June 28 and July 11, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office in Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a joint statement.
“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,” the statement said.
“We are seeing a significant rise in cases associated with the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” Hans Kluge, regional director of World Health Organization (WHO) Europe, said in the statement.
He warned that despite tremendous efforts by states to vaccinate people, millions more remain unvaccinated and therefore at risk of ending up in hospital.
The WHO official reiterated that receiving a full vaccination series significantly reduces the risk of severe disease and death. “When called to do so, people should get vaccinated.”
Both organizations noted that intensive implementation of the current public health measures, including increased access to testing, will be required to control Covid-19 transmission, particularly while the progress of vaccination is still not sufficiently high in many countries.
“We need to remain vigilant and continue to use common sense to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Andrea Ammon, ECDC director, in the statement.
She called on people to get a full course of vaccination as soon as the opportunity arises, maintain physical distancing, wash hands, avoid crowded spaces and wear a mask when necessary.
New Covid-19 cases have been increasing for the past month in Europe, and notification rates have also increased across all age groups, most rapidly among 15 to 24-year-olds, where a fivefold increase in reported cases has been observed over the period, according to WHO Europe.
The WHO recommends countries increase access to free testing, expand sequencing, incentivize quarantine for contacts and isolation for confirmed cases, strengthen contact tracing to break chains of transmission, and ensure that “those most at risk among our populations are vaccinated.”