International 25/06/2021

Merkel wants general EU quarantine to stop Delta variant

By the end of August, 90% of cases will be of the mutation identified in India

3 min
The opening could be delayed until vaccination progresses.

LondonA general alert was launched on Wednesday by both political and health authorities across Europe due to the increase in Delta variant cases. In the first case, the strongest voice has been that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has made an explicit request from the Bundestag to the other partners of the European Union (EU) to require a quarantine for travellers arriving from countries with high levels of this variant of covid, such as the United Kingdom. "In our country, if you come from the UK you have to quarantine [for fourteen days], and this is not the case in all European countries. This is what I would like to see", she said.

Germany currently has a ban on any entry from the British Isles except for a national, a resident or their spouse, partner or child, or if there is an "urgent humanitarian reason", such as family bereavement. Even if entry is permitted, it requires registration. Italy is another country that imposes self-isolation, in this case for five days, if arriving from London or anywhere else in the UK. Spain, on the other hand, has opened its borders to travellers coming from the UK, in an attempt to encourage the recovery of the tourist sector.

Call for increased vaccination

Merkel's appeal has coincided with the request made, also on Wednesday, by the head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECCD), Andrea Ammon, to increase the pace of vaccination and not to rush reopening, precisely because of the incidence of the Delta variant. This mutation, first identified in India, has been dominant in the UK since the end of May, and is responsible for 99% of new infections. Ammon said, however, that this variant is expected to account for 90% of all covid cases in the European Union by the end of August and "circulate widely, especially among younger people who are not yet being vaccinated".

The variant has already spread to 23 countries on the continent. It is sometimes linked to a low proportion of cases, but in addition to the aforementioned 99% in the UK, it is also behind more than 66% of new infections in Portugal, which has had to cope with a recent surge in infections, especially in Lisbon, where last weekend the government decreed a local lockdown and prevented people from entering and leaving the capital.

In Moscow, 90 percent of new cases are also the result of the Delta variant, according to local authorities. In Ireland and also in Germany it accounts for at least 20% of new cases.

Although some reports originating in Israel in the last few hours indicate that 40% of new Delta cases have occurred in people who have received two vaccine doses, ECCD officials believe that this variant is unlikely to pose a risk to people who are fully vaccinated. A recent study indicates that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 88% effective in protecting against symptomatic disease caused by Delta. The study, however, has determined that a single dose of the vaccine is only 33% effective.

The concern expressed by Ammon is supported by the ECCD pandemic evolution model. Without maintaining the current restrictions and without a great acceleration of vaccination, the European body believes likely a wave of infection, deaths and hospitalisation similar to the one that occurred last fall. In this sense, the head of the center has asked that the youngest, the vast majority of whom have not yet been fully immunised, maintain social distancing.

After a slow start, the distribution of vaccines in the European Union has accelerated in recent months. Still, about 30% of residents over 80 and about 40% of those over 60 have not yet been fully immunised, according to the ECCD. Their latest data published indicate that 33.9% of adults in the EU and the European Economic Area are fully vaccinated and 57.1% have received at least one dose.