COVID-19 variant brings new dimensions to Europe’s epidemic


LISBON, Portugal (AP) – In the first week of December, Portugal’s Prime Minister gave an early Christmas gift to his epidemic-weary people: the ban on gatherings and travel due to COVID-19 will be lifted from December 23-26 so that they Can do. Spend the holiday season with family and friends.

Soon after those visits, the epidemic quickly got out of hand.

By 6 January, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Portugal exceeded 10,000 for the first time. In mid-January, as alarm bells rang and new records of infections and deaths came every day, the government ordered a lockdown for at least a month and closed the nation’s schools a week later.

But it was too late, too late. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Portugal had the largest number of deaths and deaths in the world for nearly a week per day.

Now outside the country’s overloaded hospitals, long lines of ambulances wait hours to deliver their COVID-19 patients.

Portugal’s problems reflect the risk of reducing the epidemic guard, ignoring a new, rapidly spreading version.

Health experts say the epidemic is spreading rapidly across Europe. The threat is prompting governments to implement drastic new lockdowns and curfews.

Viggo Andriessen, an assistant professor in mathematical epidemiology at Roskilde University west of Copenhagen, said the new version is a game-changer.

“Told the Associated Press,” On the surface, things may look good, but the (new) variant below it is inferior. “Everyone in the business knows that he has a new game in his way.”

In Denmark, despite relative early success in preventing the spread of the virus, the variant continues to threaten the epidemic out of control. Prime Minister Mette Friedrichsen said that this month “it’s a race against time” to vaccinate people and slow down the progress of the version because it is already widely closed.

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment reported increasing cases in the Netherlands last week and warned that it would increase the number of hospital admissions and deaths.

“There are essentially two different COVID-19 epidemics: an epidemic involving ‘old’ types, with infections decreasing, and another epidemic containing (newer) versions, in which infections are increasing. , “It said.

The Netherlands entered a difficult five-week lockdown in mid-December, shutting down schools and unprofessional businesses as new infections spread. Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended the lockdown for three weeks on January 12, citing concerns about the new version.

Last week, the Dutch government went a step further by imposing curfew from 9am to 4:30 pm as well as limiting the number of guests to one house per day.

The discovery of the new version has prompted other EU countries to toughen their lockdown measures. Belgium has banned all non-potential travel for residents until March, and France could soon initiate a third lockdown if its 12-hour daily curfew does not slow the spread of new infections.

Other mutated versions of the virus have appeared in Brazil and South Africa.

Experts say that by March the British version will become a major source of infection in the United States. It has been reported in more than 20 states so far.

The US government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci says scientists are preparing an upgrade for COVID-19 vaccines that will address British and South African variants.

Modern, the maker of one of the two vaccines being used in the US, says it is beginning to test potential booster doses against the South African version – a variant Fauci said was “even more inauspicious than the British” “Was.

Pfizer, which makes a similar COVID-19 vaccine, says its shot appears to be effective against stress from Britain, although questions remain about the South Africa version.

Amid those fears, the United States is restoring COVID-19 travel restrictions on non-American travelers from the United Kingdom, 26 other European countries and Brazil, and adding South Africa to the list.

This is a learning curve for Portugal.

The Portuguese government should have strengthened its preparations for January before the Christmas ban, but this did not happen, said Ricardo Mexia, head of Portugal’s National Association of Public Health Doctors.

“The problem is not only responding quickly, but also not being proactive,” he said. Officials “need to be more assertive.”

Dr. who supervised the virus in Portugal. A January 3 report by the Ricardo George National Health Institute stated that tests found 16 cases of the new variant in Continental Portugal, 10 of which were passengers from Lisbon Airport. It is not specified where they came from.

Portuguese authorities scramble to make up for lost time, three days after its announcement, with even more strict restrictions in lockdown. But there were new cases and deaths.

Just two weeks after this, the virus monitoring agency estimated that new variant cases had arrived in Portugal in early December and warned that the proportion of COVID-19 cases responsible for the UK strain reached 60% by early February. Can.

On Saturday alone, the government halted flights to and from the United Kingdom, blasting the disastrous COVID-19.

Emergency heads of the World Health Organization said earlier this month that the agency was assessing the impact of the new variants, but warned that they were also being made scapegoats.

Dr. Michael Ryan told reporters in Geneva, “It is very easy to blame the variant and say, ‘This is the virus that did this,'”. “Well, unfortunately, it’s also that we didn’t do it.”

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AP writer Jan M. in Copenhagen. Olsen and Mike Codder in The Hague, Netherlands contributed to this report.

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