Why surge in COVID-19 infections in Europe is a concern?
Europe is witnessing a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, as over 60% of the world's cases and deaths were reported from the continent over the last week. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributed the latest spike to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which causes the COVID-19 disease. According to the WHO, COVID-19-related deaths doubled to about 4,200 a day in Europe. Here's more.
Why does it matter?
- The surge of cases in Europe is a cause of concern as India is mulling to resume international flights by the year-end.
- Meanwhile, the detection of a new variant in the African country, Botswana, is also adding to the woes.
- Furthermore, many European countries have also imposed strict lockdown in the wake of the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in the continent.
Cases in major European countries
The United Kingdom has reported over 43,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The cases reported in Poland are over 28,000, while the Czech Republic recorded over 25,000 cases. The Netherlands reported its highest number of cases on Wednesday since the pandemic began, which is about 24,000. In France, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases has crossed 20,000 for the first time since August.
WHO warns 53 countries in Europe, parts of Asia
Meanwhile, the WHO has estimated that about seven lakh more people could die of COVID-19 by March 2022 in 53 countries in Europe and parts of Asia. Out of it, 49 countries would face "high or extreme stress" in the next few months, the world health body added. Notably, the death toll of these 53 countries already stands at 15 lakh.
Lockdown imposed in many countries
The fresh surge of infections in Europe has prompted many countries to impose strict lockdown and other containment measures. Austria has returned to lockdown, and the Netherlands, too, is likely to make a similar announcement soon. Slovakia also declared a two-week lockdown. Several European countries, such as France and Germany, are also likely to make booster jabs compulsory for people to consider fully vaccinated.
Protests witnessed in many countries over fresh containment measures
However, the fresh containment measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 have also triggered protests in several European countries. The Netherlands, too, witnessed riots as protesters turned to the streets.
New variant detected in Botswana
A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, named B.1.1529, was detected in Botswana on November 11. The variant reportedly has 32 mutations in its spike protein, the part of the coronavirus that it uses to infect humans. The scientists have expressed concerns as the "incredibly high amount of spike mutations" could strengthen the virus's ability to infect human cells and transmit faster.
The new variant spread to two other countries
The new variant has reportedly spread to two other countries—South Africa and Hong Kong, China—so far. The sequencing of 10 cases confirmed the presence of the variant in these countries. Meanwhile, the new variant is also the focus of the WHO's meeting on Thursday.
The Americas are witnessing a surge in cases
Separately, the Americas and Canada are also witnessing a massive resurgence of cases lately. In the Americas, new infections have reportedly increased by 23% over the last week. All South American countries, excluding Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela, have also reported a massive rise in cases. However, Central America is witnessing a reduction in COVID-19 cases.
Why should we worry?
The new variant comes at a time when the countries are gearing up for the resumption of international flight operations. The resumption of international travel would make it swift and easy for the new variant to spread across the world. Furthermore, growing cases in Europe and the Americas would also pose the risk of global transmission if international travel returns to pre-COVID-19 normalcy.