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European Officials Voice Concern Over ‘Alarming’ New COVID Variant


Officials from the European Union said that the new coronavirus variant is alarming and could have implications for Europe’s economy.

A few countries, especially South Africa and Botswana, have identified cases of new variants, called B.1.1.529. Experts tried to calm the initial concerns by emphasizing that the Covid-19 vaccine should still be effective.

“It is alarming what is emerging,” said Mairead McGuinness, the EU commissioner for financial stability. “For our economies, of course, if there are further restrictions should this escalate, which we hope it will not, then you will probably see some impact,” she added.

The emergence of new variants comes as the continent tries to recover from the pandemic. Several countries in the region have implemented new travel restrictions and lockdowns to limit the spread of the delta variant.

European officials are also stepping up their efforts to increase vaccination.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday said that “a quarter of EU adults are still not fully vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated, you are more at risk of having severe COVID-19 symptoms. Vaccination protects you, and the others.”

“It looks like this particular variant has a very concerning set of mutations especially in the spike protein, which is needed for its transmission properties as well as its protection against the vaccines, so based on the genetic information we are quite concerned about it,” Pasi Penttinen, a public health emergency response manager at the European Centre for Disease Prevention said on Friday.

ECDC is assessing the situation and will report directly to EU governments.

“We still have a lot more to learn about the situation in South Africa and all the efforts should now be not only in South Africa but countries in the southern African region to ensure that they get a full picture of this virus,” he said.


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