Omicron strains cast shadow over Europe summer

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PARIS: A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people’s summer plans.
Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however. Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week.
Germany, meanwhile, reported over 122,000 cases on Tuesday. France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45% increase in just a week.
Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection. The UK Office for National Statistics blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3% of all deaths in England and Wales.
Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10% more contagious than BA.2. But are the new subvariants more severe? “Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating BA.1 and BA.2,” the European CDC said last week. But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, it warned. The ECDC called on nations to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

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