As a new strain of virus is discovered in South Africa, Europe rushes to strengthen virus defenses.
Governments across Europe hurried to shore up their defenses against a new coronavirus outbreak on Friday, after South Africa disclosed the discovery of a new Covid-19 type that scientists worry would jeopardize attempts to combat the epidemic.
In recent weeks, the continent has been hit by a wave of new cases and violent protests, forcing officials to resort to booster programs and extreme lockdowns to stop the tide as the continent’s death toll exceeded 1.5 million and it once again became the worldwide epicenter of an unending pandemic.
Scientists are now rushing to determine the impact of the new, extensively mutated strain, which is feared to be more infectious than Delta, the virus that brought the globe to its knees a year after it first appeared in central China.
“This is the most serious variety we have met to date, and urgent study is underway to understand more about its transmissibility, severity, and vaccine-susceptibility,” said Jennie Harries, the head of the United Kingdom’s health agency.
Countries across Europe were already intensifying booster efforts, enacting harsher bans, and targeting the unvaccinated as cases increased to record levels ahead of Thursday’s release by South African scientists.
Authorities in the Netherlands were bracing for more riots ahead of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s planned announcement on Friday that he will impose a partial lockdown as the country faced a serious medical bed crisis and infection levels at record highs.
Four days of anti-lockdown protests have erupted across the country, headed by people Rutte branded as “idiots,” with the worst incident occurring in the port city of Rotterdam, where police opened fire on protesters, hurting five people.
“We are keeping our eyes and ears open and are prepared,” Gijs van Nimwegen, a Rotterdam police spokeswoman, told AFP.
Germany, the Czech Republic, and Portugal, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, have all announced new steps in the last few days to combat an outbreak of diseases that has been far worse than expected.
As the country’s death toll surpassed 100,000, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued an urgent warning to the country’s next government on Thursday, saying “every day counts.”
To combat growing instances ahead of the approaching winter, Europe is ramping up its immunization campaign.
France made booster injections available to all people on Thursday, and the European Union’s drugs agency approved vaccines for children aged five to eleven.
Scientists and health authorities in the United Kingdom and South Africa are concerned that the new variety, which the WHO is scheduled to code-name on Friday, would undermine much of the hard-won progress. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.