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European officials express concern over new ‘alarming’ variant of Covid

A person walking through the main street of the Christmas market in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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A senior EU official said news of a new variant of the coronavirus was “alarming” and admitted there could be implications for the region’s economy.

A handful of countries, including South Africa and Botswana, have identified cases of the new variant, known as B.1.1.529. Experts tried to allay initial concerns by pointing out that the Covid-19 shots are still expected to be somewhat effective.

“It is alarming what is emerging,” Mairead McGuinness, EU Financial Stability Commissioner, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday.

“For our economies, of course, if there are other restrictions if this escalates, which we hope not, then you will probably see some impact,” she added, noting that the bloc is now better positioned to deal with the pandemic compared to the first wave.

The new variant comes at a time when different European nations are grappling with an increase in cases of the delta variant and have therefore announced social restrictions to contain the spread. This means that some countries, including Austria and the Czech Republic, have focused on the unvaccinated parts of their populations.

But for most EU governments, the new measures include the mandatory use of a mask in indoor spaces and advice for working from home. So far, there has been no widespread announcement of full closures, unlike previous waves.

European authorities are also stepping up their efforts to increase vaccination. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday: “A quarter of adults in the EU are still not fully vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you are more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID -19. Vaccination protects you and others. “

“Very worried”

“It seems that this particular variant has a very concerning set of mutations, especially in the spike protein, which is necessary for its transmission properties as well as its protection against vaccines, so based on the genetic information we are very concerned about this, “Pasi Penttinen, head of public health emergency response at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told CNBC on Friday.

ECDC is assessing the situation and will report to EU governments later on Friday.

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

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