32 scientists from 17 EU nations just met to decide covid plan – they're still bemused


COVID-19 has caused global disruption on an unprecedented scale for more than a year a half. But despite successful vaccine development and rollout, coronavirus remains a major threat, and policymakers across the globe are struggling to decide the best approach to deal with new Covid variants. For Europe in particular, the spread of the Delta variant is a source of great concern.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Tuesday that the EU had met its vaccination target for July.

Now the EU has delivered enough vaccines for 70 percent of Europeans aged 18 and over to receive their vaccinations.

In a statement, Ms von der Leyen said: “The European Union has kept its word.

“This weekend we have delivered enough vaccines to member states to be in a position to vaccinate fully at least 70 percent of the EU adults this month.”

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While the challenge of vaccinating citizens appears to have been met by the EU, the bloc faces other challenges in the form of the Delta Covid variant.

The EU Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week that the Delta variant is now the dominant strain in 19 of the 28 countries, based on recent data.

As witnessed in the UK in June, the Delta variant poses a risk of delaying restriction easing in EU nations too.

European nations are therefore faced with several options for tackling the spread of the variant.

As has been the case frequently over the last few months for many nations, the option remains of reintroducing strict restrictions and lockdowns to help curb the spread of the variant.

But with the vaccine rollout well underway, there is also the option of avoiding strict restrictions, which could help boost economies that have suffered significantly due to the virus.

Emil N. Iftekhar and Viola Priesemann, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen, Martin McKee, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and research director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and Elena Petelos, vice-president for health technology assessment at the European Public Health Association and lecturer in evidence-based medicine at the University of Crete, wrote in Politico recently about the spread of the Delta variant in Europe.

The team brought together 32 scientists from 17 European countries, to ask what the next steps are for dealing with the Delta variant.

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“The daily number of cases continues to rise steeply, reaching a level of 1,000 new cases per million people or more each day.

“If this occurs before enough people are vaccinated, it will pose additional risk of considerable burden to hospitals — with everything this implies for health workers and patient care.

“And seasonal effects would only increase these risks as we move into winter.”

Alternatively, the second scenario means maintaining a low incidence of some 10 new cases per million people or less per day.

The scenario could potentially be obtained by reducing transmission of the virus by fully vaccinating people, along with EU nations working together to reduce transmission across borders and monitoring variants.

The authors added transmission could be reduced “by the timely implementation of less stringent and locally targeted forms of physical distancing measures”.

In this situation, society would be able to continue in a way that resembles normality, and the economy would avoid significant further damage, but it could be difficult to achieve without clear communication.

Scientists and policymakers alike face tough decisions on how to deal with the variant’s spread over the coming months, but only time will tell how EU authorities decide to rise to the threat.


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