The Covid-19 strains from the UK, Brazil and South Africa pose a very high risk due to their increased transmissibility and must be stamped out with tougher health measures, the EU’s infectious diseases agency has said.
The transmissibility of the three variants will likely push infection rates higher, leading to more hospitalizations and “death rates across all age groups,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement on Thursday.
“The overall risk associated with the introduction and community spread of variants of concern is therefore assessed as being high/very high,” it said.
The ECDC urged member states to adopt tougher health measures to contain the spread of mutant strains, and to strengthen case detection and contact tracing.
Rather than relax restrictions such as lockdowns, governments should “be ready to enforce even stricter measures,” it said, recommending that “non-essential travel should be avoided.”
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Across Europe this week, governments have tightened the screws on public health measures designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The Netherlands has introduced curfews and travel bans, Germany has extended its lockdown, Portugal has closed schools, and the French government is facing calls from doctors to toughen measures that will alleviate the pressure on hospitals.
On Wednesday, Portugal had the world’s highest seven-day-average incidence rate of new infections per 100,000 people, with the Portuguese prime minister warning of the “extreme seriousness” of the national situation at this point in the pandemic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also warned of the prevalence of new variants, saying on Thursday that, although infections are decreasing, “the virus is still very dangerous,” and countries must work together, because, “epidemiologically, the EU is one region.”
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