Pan-European Defence Against new SARS-CoV-2 Variants

Several European Scientists call for a united effort in reducing the spread of COVID-19 cases, as new SARS-CoV-2 variants are emerging.

The data collected on the variants so far suggests that these new variants could lead to new waves of viral spread. Despite the availability of effective vaccines being available, production to meet the demand and roll-out of the vaccination programmes will take months. Thomas Czypionka, head of the IHS research group Health Economics and Health Policy explains the situation: "We know that new variants are emerging that have a higher transmissibility, and may also start to escape immune response to the original variant. In case variants with higher transmissibility become dominant, current measures will not be able to avoid exponential growth, and high case numbers foster development of further mutations, strengthening immune-escape. We therefore propose a coordinated European action plan to handle this new phase of the pandemic.”

In order to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Europe, the authors call for four core measures: 

  • Achieve and maintain low case numbers with a clear prevention strategy
  • Monitor the spreading of the virus and of individual variants
  • Stop the virus at borders and protect the vulnerable
  • Increase the efficacy and pace of vaccination

Europe needs to act now to delay and prevent any further spread of SARS-CoV-2, particularly B.1.1.7, even in the absence of final experimental data. A clear plan for immediate pan-European action and rapid establishment of public health measures needs to be formulated since new variants with increased infectivity are likely to continue to arise.