Europe is ‘on thin ice’ as concerns about delta variant grow
Michael E. Miller
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Europe remains “on thin ice” in its fight against the coronavirus, as experts predicted that the more infectious delta variant, which was first detected in India, would become the dominant variant across much of the continent by summer’s end.
“We need to remain vigilant,” Merkel, who is set to leave office this year, said Thursday. “The newly arising variants, especially now the delta variant, are a warning for us to continue to be careful.”
Sydney will go into a partial lockdown on Friday as officials in Australia’s most populous city try to stamp out a growing delta variant outbreak.
Doctors in Britain have reported a record rise in respiratory illnesses, particularly among younger children. The National Health Service said it was “overwhelmed” by these cases, which are not covid-related and common in the winter months — but are climbing as distancing restrictions ease across the country.
Both Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have urged European Union countries to coordinate more closely on restrictions on travel from non-E.U. countries, including the United Kingdom, where the delta variant now makes up a majority of new cases.
“In our country, if you come from Great Britain, you have to go into quarantine,” said Merkel, who was making what was likely her last speech to Germany’s parliament. “That’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see.”
The warnings from the two leaders, which come as cases climb again in Britain and as Europe opens up to some foreign tourists, were underlined by a new report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
The ECDC said in the report that the delta variant would be responsible for 90 percent of coronavirus infections in the European Union and the European Economic Area — which also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — by the end of August. Any relaxation of covid protocols “could lead to a fast and significant increase in daily cases in all age groups” and a reprise of last year’s fall surge, the agency said.
While the number of new infections in Europe has fallen sharply since the vaccine rollout started, the drop in cases is starting to plateau.