Rising Case Numbers in Europe Due to Delta, Mostly Young People Affected

On Sunday, Metropole brings you a COVID-19 update from Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer, an Austrian virologist who works and teaches at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

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.

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Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer
Prof. Krammer is the Principal Investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC). Currently Prof. Krammer holds a position as a Professor of Vaccinology at the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He has published more than 100 papers, is member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, Plos One and Heliyon and is a peer reviewer for more than 30 journals.

Current Status

If you live in Vienna, make sure to register for getting a vaccine against COVID-19 under impfservice.wien.  Here you can book your vaccination appointment.

Austria and Vienna have lifted most coronavirus restrictions in the summer.  

Here’s an overview of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Vienna and how the free PCR “gargle” tests at home work. 

If everything is a bit much for you or you experience domestic violence of any kind, here is our mental health resource article.

Numbers

For current coronavirus numbers, check the website of Ministry of Health and the AGES dashboard.

The Austrian Ministry of Health also publishes daily vaccination statistics and a preview of scheduled deliveries.

Resources

The City of Vienna has compiled comprehensive information on questions and answers regarding coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in English.

The Austrian Ministry of Health has put together FAQs on the coronavirus and also provides material to download on how to protect yourself and others from the disease, also in English.

Furthermore, the ministry will constantly update its German-language website with information on the number of people tested and cases of COVID-19 in Austria.

Hotlines

Health advice by telephone1450

If you show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties) or fear that you are ill, stay at home and dial health number 1450 for further procedures (diagnostic clarification).

Coronavirus hotline AGES+43 0800 555 621

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) answers questions about the coronavirus (general information on transmission, symptoms, prevention) 24 hours a day at +43 0800 555 621.

VKI hotline for travel law questions+43 0800 201 211

For legal questions concerning trips that have already been booked (e.g. whether a trip can be cancelled free of charge), the experts of the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) provide advice free of charge from Monday to Sunday between 09:00 and 15:00 at +43 0800 201 211.