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article imageSpeed of COVID variants fueling powerful virus surge in Europe

By Karen Graham     Mar 6, 2021 in Health
The more-infectious “U.K. variant” continues to out-compete other strains of the COVID virus as it sweeps through communities in Europe. The WHO recorded 1 million new COVID-19 cases in Europe last week, a 9 percent increase from the week before.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the increase reported on Thursday this week ended a downward trend that had been going on for six weeks, reports the Associated Press.
“The spread of the variants is driving the increase, but not only,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, citing “also the opening of society when it is not done in a safe and a controlled manner.”
The UK variant is spreading rapidly in 27 countries in Europe and is dominant in at least 10 by the WHO's count: Britain, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain, and Portugal. The UK's B.1.1.1 variant is 50 times more transmissible, making it more adept at thwarting measures that were previously effective, WHO experts warned.
In the Milan, Italy suburb of Bollate, the virus swept through a nursery school and an adjacent elementary school with amazing speed. In a matter of just days, 45 children and 14 staff members had tested positive for the UK variant.
In Lombardy, which bore the brunt of Italy’s spring surge, intensive care wards are again filling up as more than two-thirds of new positive tests are of the UK variant, health officials said this week. Cases in Milan schools alone surged 33 percent in a week.
The virus tore through Italy's Lombardy region
The virus tore through Italy's Lombardy region
Piero CRUCIATTI, AFP
In the United Kingdom, where the emergence of the more transmissible B.1.1.1 strain sent cases soaring in December - initiating a strict lockdown, cases have decreased from a high of 60,000 a day in January to below 7,000 a day. However, a study suggests the rate of decline is slowing, and the government says it will tread cautiously with plans to ease the lockdown.
If the speed of transmission of the UK variant isn't enough to keep people worried, the South African variant is now present in 26 European countries and is a source of particular concern because of doubts over whether the current vaccines are fully effective against it. The Brazilian variant, which appears capable of reinfecting people, has been detected in 15 European countries.
In related news, the UK variant is also out-competing other COVID variants in the U.S. state of Florida and is responsible for about 15 - 20 percent of infections, But the variant may face a tougher fight in trying to make a comeback in the state because health authorities say that almost half of the state’s residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine and nearly a third of the population may have already been infected by the virus, reports the Miami Herald.
More about covid variants, Europe, UK variant, virus adaptation, opening of society
 
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