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EU disease agency says COVID levels set to soar

July 16, 2021

The EU's disease agency has said it predicts a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, with nearly five times last week's level by August 1. That said, the number of serious cases is predicted to rise much less steeply.

Passengers wearing protective face masks walk at Fiumicino Airport
Passengers wearing protective face masks walk at Rome's Fiumicino AirportImage: Guglielmo Mangiapane/REUTERS

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Friday said it expected to see 420 cases per 100,000 people for the week ending August 1.

That prediction, in the agency's latest weekly report, compares with a figure of just under 90 last week.

The agency, which covers the European Union as well as Norway and Iceland and Liechtenstein, expects the figure to rise to more than 620 new cases per 100,000 population for the week ending August 8. However it warned that its models' likely accuracy decreased the further forward they charted.

"The current continuing deterioration of the epidemiological situation in many countries is expected to continue given the rapid increase in the delta variant," the ECDC said in the report.

However, the number of hospitalizations and deaths is expected to increase at a much slower pace, the ECDC said, with particular thanks to the vaccination campaign. 

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 is expected to exceed the 10 per million threshold, compared to 6.8 last week.

Uptick steepest among the young

The ECDC forecast increasing cases in 20 countries with an increase in deaths in nine of them. These were Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

"In the most affected countries, the steepest increases and highest notification rates were reported among 15 to 24-year-old's, with limited increases in persons aged over 65 years," the ECDC said.

Younger people tend to be among the last to be offered vaccinations, because they are at less risk of death or serious illness than the elderly if they catch COVID.

Between July 5 and 11, the number of new cases in the EU leaped by more than 60% — an increase for the second week in a row.

According to the ECDC this was due to "relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions and increasing spread of delta variant" first detected in India.

The Stockholm-based agency last month warned that the delta variant looked set to be behind 90% of new cases by the end of August.

As a result, the ECDC has said it was essential that Europe accelerates vaccination campaigns so as to close immunity gaps as quickly as possible.

rc/msh (AFP, dpa)