Europe braces for impact of new Covid variants

Copenhagen, Jan 22 (efe-epa).- Europe, the second-worst affected continent by the Covid-19 pandemic, has tightened its restrictions amid fears of new, more contagious mutations of the coronavirus, with infection, death and hospital rates all at high albeit stable levels.

The incidence of new cases in the last 14 days stands at 453 per 100,000 inhabitants, increasing for the second week in a row, according to the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which reports on the 27 EU members states as well as Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Among the 21 countries with high test positivity (minimum 3 percent), two (France and Spain) have shown an increase in the last seven days, while 19 are stable or have decreased.

The number of countries with higher infection rates compared to a week ago has fallen in the last seven days — only Belgium, France, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and Spain reported increases — while in 23 countries, including Austria, Germany and Italy, case numbers are either stable or falling.

But the ECDC warns that the overall picture remains concerning and could worsen in the short term.

“Absolute values of the indicators remain high in all countries, including those with stable or decreasing trends in these indicators, suggesting that transmission is still widespread,” the ECDC said in a statement.

Ireland, with 1,444 per 100,000 inhabitants, tops the list of new cases in the last 14 days; followed by the Czech Republic (1,362.82), Portugal (1,215.19), Slovenia (1,132.97) and Spain (804.50), while the countries with the lowest incidence are Greece (79.33), Finland (61.94) and Iceland (60.51).

The ECDC considers incidence to be high when there are at least 60 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Every country in the area is exceeding that threshold, according to the latest data.

The greatest short-term threat is the progress of the more contagious new Sars-CoV2 mutations detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

The UK strain is of particular concern, with cases confirmed throughout the continent.

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