COVID-19 Delta variant now dominant across Europe, WHO reports

Malta has only registered around 64 cases of the Delta variant, but it's now the dominant strain in the majority of EU countries, disease surveillance data shows

The COVID-19 Delta variant has become the dominant strain across the majority of countries in Europe, making up roughly 68% of total cases on average.

Surveillance data reported to the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that the Delta variant has become dominant in 19 out of 28 countries. 

Between 28 June and 11 July, the median proportion of all nationally sequenced virus isolates detected showed that the proportion of Delta variant was 68.3%. It has now overtaken the previously dominant Alpha variant which enjoyed a 22.3% proportion across the region.

Based on current trends, the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is forecast to become the globally dominant strain over the coming months, and has already been identified in almost all European countries.

It will displace the circulation of other variants unless a new and more competitive virus emerges.

Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO Europe Regional Director, said that the world is far from out of the woods in terms of the pandemic ending, and many countries in Europe are seeing a signifianct rise in cases associated with the spread of the Delta variant.

"Despite tremendous efforts by member states to vaccinate people across the region, millions more remain unvaccinated and therefore at risk of ending up in hospital," he said.

ECDC Director Andrea Ammon urged the public to receive their full vaccination course as soon as the opportunity arises, while maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing when necessary.

"These are measures that we know work to protect ourselves and others. We should think of these as ‘anti-lock down measures’ because they can help prevent the spread of disease without having to shut down large parts of society," she said.

Last Wednesday, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that there have been 64 cases of the Delta variant in Malta. While it is becoming the dominant variant in Europe, it is yet to be so in Malta.

However, Malta's positivity and case notification rate remains high compared to its European counterparts, with Malta joining the red list in the weekly map released by the ECDC.

The latest map, released yesterday sees Malta, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland on the red list, while Cyprus and the Netherlands are dark red.

The ECDC map is published by the agency to help European countries determine travel arrangements and restrictions. It has no immediate impact on conditions for travel, which remain the sole prerogative of individual member states and which are amended on a weekly basis.