Since the beginning of the pandemic, Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer has been writing (bi-)weekly updates in German for family and friends. Metropole was kindly granted permission to translate and publish these updates.
July 11, 2021
Here again my now bi-weekly update – and if things continue to develop like this, the update will, unfortunately, have to become a weekly item again. We shall see.
So far, 187 million official infections have been detected worldwide, 4,045,000 people have officially died from COVID-19. Over 3.4 billion doses of vaccines have been administered.
Rising Cases Numbers in Europe
In Europe, case numbers are, unfortunately, rising again in many places, especially in young people and children. In many European countries, the number of cases is very low – Norway, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Serbia, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Ireland, Slovenia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine.
But even in some of these countries, slight upward trends in cases can be discerned, names in Finland, France, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Denmark.
In other countries, we can already speak of a wave, especially in Great Britain, where the number of cases is again very high. Rapid increases can also be seen in Portugal, Spain, and Greece.
A place that stands out is the Netherlands, where an extremely rapid increase in cases has been reported. This is only partly due to the delta variant (share about 60%). Russia also has huge problems with a new wave, but the situation there has never really been brought under control and the vaccination coverage is very low.
Situation Complex in the Americas
In the US, the situation is mostly relaxed, but there are a few states where the cases are increasing (Missouri, for example). Also in New York, there was an increase in the last few days, but that could also have to do with the holiday last week (Independence Day).
Canada looks very good, the case numbers are low there. In Central America, some countries (Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, etc.) are not looking so good, the number of cases is rising sharply. In South America, on the other hand, infections are decreasing in almost all countries – even in Brazil.
Asia Amid Its First Wave?
In Asia, unfortunately, many countries, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, are seeing steep upward trends in cases. Slight increases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, and Pakistan. The situation in Nepal, India, and the Philippines look quite stable. Taiwan has managed the major outbreak of a few weeks ago well, case numbers in Singapore are also quite low.
Difficulties in the Middle East & Africa
In the Middle East and the Maghreb, the situation is mixed. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Oman, Bahrain, and Turkey have either stable or declining case rates. In Kuwait, the numbers are very high, but also appear to be stable. In Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya, as well as Iran and Iraq, the case numbers are going up steeply. Israel is also reporting cases again, about 400-500 per day.
South Africa is in the midst of a strong wave, but Zambia, Namibia, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Senegal, the DRC, and Malawi are also seeing either high or rising case numbers. Even in Nigeria, there has been a slight upward trend.
The Coming Summer Wave
Yes, basically, in some parts of Europe, the situation currently doesn’t look so bad, but what we’re seeing in the U.K., the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, and Spain is probably going to happen everywhere over the summer. In some countries, like Austria, you can already see this upward trend.
Not all of these cases are caused by the delta variant, but it is now a big part of the mix. And with the European Football Championship and vacation trips, the delta variant is spreading fast (see a recent cluster in Carinthia via a Dutch travel group).
Younger People Now More Affected
What you can also see is that it is now mainly the younger people who are involved in the infection process (vaccination coverage rates in older people in Europe are very high). And that means young adults as well as children. A high proportion of cases in Israel, for example, involve under-20-year-olds.
It is important to note that according to data from Scotland and England, the vaccines work very well against Delta (79-88% effectiveness with mRNA vaccines against infection, even higher against severe disease and death). We heard in the media that the vaccines worked less well against the variant in Israel. However, there is no solid scientific data on this yet.
Do We Need Booster Shots?
Now something about booster vaccinations: Pfizer has now said that a 3rd booster vaccination is necessary. From a scientific point of view, however, there is no reason for this – the efficiency holds, even against variants. This is true for mRNA vaccinations and healthy people. For people who have been vaccinated with J&J or AstraZeneca (where the efficiency is lower) or have immune deficiencies, a booster with the mRNA vaccines in the fall could make sense. While this is not the plan at this time, it should be discussed.
I’ll get back to you in two weeks – or already in one week, if the situation should change dramatically.