Omicron and new variants of the coronavirus. Will Europe be closed again? | Europe and Europeans: news and analysis | DW

With the onset of summer, a new wave of coronavirus is expected, caused by “omicron”-variant and its new forms. The growing number of infections in Europe is now clouding the prospects for a carefree holiday season. Coronavirus infections are on the rise in Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Denmark and the Netherlands, according to statistics website Our World in Data.

Experts justify this growth with new virus variants – BA.4 and BA.5, which are more contagious than the previous ones. In addition, they refer to the measures to protect against the pandemic that have been canceled by the authorities. What awaits Europe under these conditions?

Has Portugal weathered the new wave of the pandemic?

In particular, Portugal has been struggling with an increase in infections since mid-May. The country continues to have Europe’s highest weekly rate of reported infections. A new sub-variant of “omicron” – BA.5 has caused increased rates of the spread of coronavirus. 90% of detected infections in Portugal are now caused by this type of virus.

Masked people on a tram in Portugal

Portugal has been struggling with a large number of infected since mid-May

Along with the weekly indicator of infection in Portugal, the death rate has also increased. According to Our World in Data, the country has the highest mortality among the population of all Western European countries, taking into account the size of the population. Despite the large number of infected, hospitals in Portugal are not overwhelmed. High in the country vaccination rate – Vaccinations have 87% of the population.

In addition, the new form of “omicron” is considered more contagious than the previous ones, but not more dangerous. The incidence in Portugal has been declining since the beginning of June. Insa, an institution under the Portuguese Ministry of Health, suggests that the peak of infections has already been reached and that their wave is now subsiding.

Experts warn of “omicron” wave in Europe

Since mid-June, the number of infected people in France has also increased rapidly. According to official information, the weekly incidence rate is currently about 477 per 100,000 inhabitants (as of June 18).

“The epidemic curve in France is exponential,” warned Antoine Flahaud, an epidemiologist and head of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva’s School of Medicine. It looks like the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants will spark a new wave, Flao said in an interview with Franceinfo news channel.

Music festival in France, a huge area filled with a mass of people

In France, as in other European countries, the vane-like security measures have already been completely abolished.

However, while he cannot clearly predict how the situation will develop in France. While South Africa got through a new wave of coronavirus in eight weeks, Flao suggests it will take nine to ten weeks in Portugal. “If we extrapolate the situation in Portugal to France, then we will be dealing with a new wave for most of the summer,” says Flao.

“We still haven’t learned our lesson”

As in France, in Germany weekly incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants significantly exceeds 400. The Robert-Koch-Institut announced on Wednesday, June 22, about 119,000 new infections with coronavirus over the past day. Probably BA.4 and BA.5 are also to blame. But, according to RKI deputy head Lars Schaade, the lifting of protective measures contributes to the worsening of the situation with coronavirus.

“This is not the case when we can easily and without countermeasures to resist this summer wave,” – said the German Minister of Health, Social Democrat Karl Lauterbach (Karl Lauterbach). He is banking on further protective measures planned for the fall, such as another major public vaccination campaign. However, according to Lauterbach, no reason to panic.

Karl Lauterbach

Karl Lauterbach

Meanwhile, in Greece and Italy, according to the weekly incidence indicator, the number of newly infected also jumped sharply. In Italy, it has been rising for the second week in a row, and the transmission rate of the virus has again reached epidemic proportions, informs the Italian Ministry of Health. “This is ours third summer of the pandemicand we still haven’t learned our lesson,” Walter Riccardi, former Italian health minister, lamented in an interview with the ADNKronos news agency.

Spain has not yet recorded such a significant increase in the number of infected people, as is the case in other European countries. They officially register cases of coronavirus only in people over 60 years old. According to the latest report from the Department of Health, the nationwide weekly rate for this age group is around 302 (as of June 17). In mid-June, Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 accounted for more than 10 percent of positive tests.

There are not many “omicrons” in Northern and Eastern Europe

While the incidence of covid is increasing in some countries of Southern and Western Europe, in the north and east of the continent, its rates are still at a low level. According to Our World in Data, there is also a slight increase in these states, but it is still incomparable with other European countries.

In Sweden, for example, in mid-June, about 1,900 cases of covid were registered per week, and in Poland, according to official information, 285 per day. In Denmark, where the number of cases is also still low, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced on June 22 that people over 50 will be offered a fourth coronavirus vaccination. The number of infections, according to her, grew faster than expected, and the BA.5 omicron variant has already become dominant type of virus.

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