More contagious Covid-19 strains could lead to rapid spread in spring

The director of the US Disease Control Agency CDC, Rochelle Walensky, said in an interview with presenter Ari Shapiro of National Public Radio that she was extremely concerned about the course of the pandemic over the next few weeks. She did this in a way that is seldom the case among senior officials.

She said, “In the next two or three months things could go in one of two directions. If everything opens up and we’re not really careful, there could be just as much an increase in the number of cases after the spring break as there was after Christmas. There could be many more sick people and many more deaths. “

A researcher in the virology laboratory of the University of Tropical Medicine in Sao Paulo (Brazil) is working on the development of a test that can detect the new variant P.1 of the coronavirus. (AP Photo / Andre Penner)

Similar concerns are being expressed across Europe, where more than a million new cases were reported this week after a sustained decline over the past six weeks. This means an increase of nine percent compared to the previous week. The regional head of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Europe, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday: “We are experiencing a resurgence in the Central and Eastern European countries where the rates were already high.”

The health system in the Czech Republic, which has been particularly hard hit, continues to face significant pressures. Kluge called on states to return to “the basics” of public health measures. The surge in infections is a result of the easing of restrictions and the increasing dominance of the more infectious strains of the coronavirus.

According to a map from the CDC that lists the variants of Covid-19, there were 2,506 cases of B.1.1.7 variants in 46 states as of March 2. There have been more than 100 confirmed cases in Florida, Michigan, New York, Georgia, Texas and California, among others. The strains B.1.351 and P.1 with a reduced immune response also spread, although not to the same extent.

The virologist Dr. Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona called for more attention to be paid to variant P.1 in the USA. He expressed the fear that it could spread further, even if it competed with variant B.1.1.7. Compared to the New York Times he explained: “At least she will take part in the competition.”

These developments have tarnished the earlier optimism many scientists initially showed when the use of effective vaccines against Covid-19 began in December. The strains from South Africa and Brazil have been shown to be more easily transmitted, reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, and could even bypass immunity from previous infections.

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