Concern in Europe is growing over the increasing spread of the Delta (formerly called Indian) variant of the coronavirus, at a key moment when the pace of vaccination is advancing and some pandemic measures are being relaxed among the population.
The United Kingdom has seen a spike in the number of cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, despite a well-paced public vaccination program.
Much more contagious than the Alpha variant, which appeared in late 2020 in Kent, southeast England. Delta began to spread mainly in the North West of England before spreading to the rest of the UK, especially among young people not yet vaccinated with the first of the two doses of the preparation. Scientists have indicated that 90% of the infections counted in the country correspond to the Delta variant.
The spread of the virus has forced the Government to delay by four weeks the planned lifting of all restrictions in England, while the other regions -Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland- maintain different measures.
Portugal will close perimetrically the metropolitan area of Lisbon and will prohibit entry and exit during the weekend, due to the advance of the pandemic and the prevalence of the delta variant in that region.
The measure was adopted yesterday in the Council of Ministers as “protection”, to avoid “spreading” the situation in Lisbon to the rest of the country, and will be in force between 3:00 p.m. this Friday and 6:00 a.m. on Monday. The authorities are especially concerned about the situation in the capital, where the 14-day incidence is already close to 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
German authorities warned of the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and called for “maximum caution” to citizens, especially with regard to travel to the United Kingdom.
According to health sources, the advance of this variant is evident in Germany. A week ago, its share in the total number of infections was 3.7%, while now it is 6.2%. Germany is in the midst of a de-escalation of restrictions and public life has practically normalized in recent weeks.
The Delta variant in France, according to the French Health Minister Olivier Véran on Tuesday, represents between 2 and 4 % of the positive cases, which is equivalent to between 50 and 150 new diagnoses per day.
The French authorities point out that it is still low, but urge not to lower their guard so that there is not an exponential increase of cases, as happened with the British variant. France withdrew this Thursday the obligation to wear a mask in the street, but the Executive asks to maintain collective vigilance.
The Indian variant is beginning to gain ground, but gradually, in Belgium, which is in the middle of its summer de-escalation plan. Last Friday, at the press conference of the Covid-19 Interfederal Crisis Center, the Government of Alexandre de Croo reported that the Delta variant continues to grow and already represents 3.9% of the reported cases and particularly affects the young population that has not yet received the vaccine. However, some experts are beginning to point out that the Indian variant could become dominant in Belgium by the end of July.
The delta variant of the coronavirus is also spreading in the Netherlands, although not yet at a worrying level, so the Dutch government maintains the trend towards de-escalation for the summer and will announce this Friday the relaxation of several restrictions, among which is expected the possible end of the mandatory use of masks indoors and teleworking, always keeping the distance of one and a half meters.
In Austria, where extensive measures to ease restrictions have just been announced, including the reopening of discotheques and nightclubs, as well as the elimination of the use of masks in many places, experts warn of the potential danger of the Indian variant in the coming months. According to Austrian experts, 6.3 % of the investigated cases of covid-19 currently come from the delta variant.
The Delta variant is still rare in Italy, although outbreaks are appearing almost everywhere in the country. In view of this situation, the head of the Italian government, Mario Draghi, announced that he could again force citizens arriving from Great Britain to be quarantined if there are concerns about contagion.
The presence of the Delta variant in Denmark is also low: 154 cases have been reported throughout the country, mostly linked to travel abroad, although there is already community transmission and outbreaks have appeared in neighborhoods in towns such as Aarhus, the second most populated.