Summer arrived in Europe coinciding with an increase in coronavirus cases, caused by new omicron sub-variants, forcing authorities to increase precautions.
Many European countries have been confronted for a few weeks with a new acceleration of contamination.
First country affected Portugal, which saw an increase in new cases in May, reaching nearly 30,000 daily in early June. The wave then began to subside.
In the UK, daily infections are again at their highest since the start of the pandemic.
Also affected, Italy recorded 30,526 new cases in 24 hours (from Saturday to Sunday last), with an increase of 63.4% in 7 days, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health.
Germany experiences the same fate and France is not spared either, with an accelerated circulation of SARS-CoV-2 for about ten days and a rate of contamination of more than 44,000 cases (on average over seven days).
The increase in cases is explained by the conjunction of two effects, Mircea Sofonea, professor of epidemiology at the University of Montpellier, tells AFP.
On the one hand, a “low immunity”, that is to say that “the protection granted by the infection or the doses of the vaccine decreases over time”.
On the other hand, the arrival of new lineages of Omicron, BA.4 and especially BA.5.
“BA.5, and to a lesser extent BA.4, are spreading in Europe,” he adds. “Epidemiological data shows that it would be 10% more contagious than BA.2, and that is the reason why it becomes predominant.”
Towards the rise in hospitalizations? –
On the severity of BA.5, “it is premature to pronounce in the absence of clearly established clinical data,” says Schwartz.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) judged in mid-May-June that, based on still limited data, “there is no evidence that BA.4 and BA.5 are associated with increasing severity of the infection in relation to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2”.
However, as during previous waves, a global rise in Covid-19 cases may lead to increased hospitalizations and intensive care admissions, the Center warns.
The European population is heavily immunized thanks to vaccinations and past infections.
This confers a stronger a priori protection against the risk of a severe form of the disease than against the possibility of a new infection, which should limit the magnitude of the new increase in hospitalizations.
In France, the “moderate economic recovery” in recent weeks “is accompanied by a small increase in hospitalizations” and may lead to “an increase” in admissions to intensive care and deaths, said Professor Alain Fischer, president of the Council of strategic direction on vaccines.
But “nothing dramatic will happen in hospital intensive care services,” said German virologist Klaus Stöhr.
The fight to contain the spread of the coronavirus has diverted resources to fight tuberculosis, which in 2020 killed 1.5 million people, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
New measures for the summer?
The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant”, retaining testing systems and surveillance.
Italy decided in mid-June to extend the obligation to wear FFP2 masks on public transport (except on planes) until September 30.
The German president of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, advocates the rapid adoption of a package that includes the use of masks, vaccination and limiting contacts.
In France, the government this week asked the elderly to apply a new dose of the vaccine “as quickly as possible”.