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Europe on thin ice amid delta variant rise, says Merkel

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. File picture by Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via AP
Associated Press

Europe is “on thin ice” in its battle against coronavirus, as the highly contagious delta variant threatens to undo progress made in reducing infections, German chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

In what may be her last government declaration to the German parliament, Mrs Merkel said the further response to the pandemic would be a main topic of discussion among European Union leaders at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

She said the number of Covid-19 cases in the 27-nation bloc continues to decline, while vaccination rates climb.

“But even though there is reason to be hopeful, the pandemic isn’t over, in particular in the world’s poor countries,” she said. “But in Germany and Europe we’re also still moving on thin ice.”

“We need to remain vigilant,” Mrs Merkel added. “In particular the newly arising variants, especially now the delta variant, are a warning for us to continue to be careful.”

EU health officials predicted on Wednesday that the delta variant, first identified in India, will make up 90% of all cases across the EU by the end of August, showing the need for as many people to be fully vaccinated as possible.

In Germany, the delta variant now makes up about 15% of new cases, according to the country’s disease control agency.

The country has pressed for EU countries to form a joint position on quarantine for travellers from areas where variants of concern are particularly prevalent.

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