The FT reported in today's edition of the paper that the Delta COVID mutant first identified in India has swept across the UK while also becoming the dominant strain in Portugal and Germany, with the strain threatening other countries as well, just as Europe is suffering multiple setbacks to its vaccine rollout.
According to an FT analysis of European infection data, the new strain is gaining ground, though it's not quite the dominant strain in the EU. Delta accounts for 96% of sequenced COVID infections in Portugal, more than 20% in Italy and about 16% in Belgium.
The small but rising number of cases have raised concerns that the Delta variant could halt the progress the EU has made over past the two months in bringing new infections and deaths down to their lowest level since the fall.
"We are in the process of crushing the virus and crushing the pandemic, and we must in no way let the Delta variant get the upper hand," said French Health Minister Olivier Véran, who told reporters at a Paris vaccination center on Tuesday.
Véran said only 2%-4% of virus samples being analyzed in France were showing as the Delta variant, "you might say this is still low but it is similar to the situation in the UK a few weeks ago." The FT's analysis suggested that the percentage of Delta cases being identified in France might be higher.
Speaking on Monday in Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that the Delta variant could spark Germany's "Fourth Wave". To combat this, Germany must find "the right balance" as it prepares for cases to climb into the fall and winter months.
In Portugal, community transmission of the Delta mutant has been detected in the greater Lisbon area, where more than 60% of the country’s new coronavirus cases in the past week have been located. Non-essential travel to and from the city has been banned in an effort to prevent a spread in cases to the rest of the country.
Now, scientists are looking to the UK (where Delta accounts for 98% of new infections) for clues about what might be in store for the Continent.
PM Boris Johnson said Monday that England is "looking good" when it comes to further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, but warned that the country could face a "rough winter" ahead. Earlier this month, BoJo announced plans to extend England's lockdown by another 4 weeks due to the resurgence of new cases and hospitalizations caused by Delta.
Europe isn't the only region seeing a surge in new cases. Colombia has seen caseloads rising following a regional outbreak. Mongolia, once viewed as a success story thanks to the generous allotments of vaccine doses it received from neighboring China and Russia, has seen case numbers bounce back.
Could the EU be in for a similar rebound?