The Delta variant of the coronavirus has now become the dominant strain in most of Europe, the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s regional office for Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed on Friday.
Data collected between 28 June and 11 July 2021 show the Delta variant (previously known as the Indian variant) was dominant in 19 out of 28 European countries, as around 68.3% of people who tested positive were infected with it.
"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," a press release from WHO Europe stated.
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The Delta variant has now overtaken the previously dominant Alpha variant across the region, now accounting for 22.3% of positive cases in the region.
In a joint statement on Friday, WHO Europe and the ECDC urged countries to step up their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus by increasing access to free testing, developing sequencing, encouraging confirmed cases to isolate themselves, and making sure that high-risk people are vaccinated.
"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," said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
"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," he added.
Coronavirus infections increased this week by 9% worldwide, according to figures collected by French news agency AFP as of Thursday. The highest increases were registered in Europe (+26%) and in the United States, where cases shot up by over 60% due to the Delta variant.
Infections have been surging in Europe for about one month now, the health authorities report. In its latest projections, published on Friday, the ECDC said it expected the number of new cases to more than double in the next four weeks, mainly among young people.
"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. Kluge said.
The Delta variant is also expected to continue to dominate the other mutations, unless a new strain appears, noted the ECDC, which expressed particular concern about the situation in Spain, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus, which recently turned orange or red on its coronavirus travel map.
The Brussels Times