MILAN (AP) – The virus has spread through nurseries and a neighboring primary school in the suburbs of Milan Bolate with incredible speed. In just days, 45 children and 14 employees turned out to be positive.
Genetic analysis confirmed what officials already suspected: The highly contagious variant of coronavirus, first identified in England, raced through the community, a densely populated town of nearly 40,000 with a chemical plant and a Pirelli bicycle tire factory 15 minutes away. a car from the heart of Milan.
Bolate is the first city in Lombardy, the northern region, to be the epicenter of each of Italy’s three waves, sealed by neighbors because of mutant versions that the World Health Organization says are now exacerbating another rise in infections across Europe. Options also include versions first identified in South Africa and Brazil.
Last week, Europe registered 1 million new cases of COVID-19, an increase of 9% over the previous week and a reversal that ended the six-week decline, the WHO said on Thursday.
“The proliferation of options leads to an increase, but not only,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, citing “also the opening up of society when it is not done in a safe and controlled way.”
The so-called UK variant is widespread in 27 WHO-monitored European countries and is dominant in at least 10 of the agency’s counts: Britain, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain and Portugal.
It is up to 50% more transmissible than the virus, which increased last spring and again in the autumn, making it more experienced in thugs that were previously effective, WHO experts have warned.
“That’s why health systems are fighting harder now,” Kluge said. “It simply came to our notice then. We must hold the fortress and be very vigilant. “
In Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s spring tide, intensive care units are being replenished as more than two-thirds of the new positive tests are from the British version, health officials said this week.
After putting two provinces and about 50 cities on a modified blockade, the Lombardy district governor announced increased restrictions on Friday and closed classrooms for all age groups. Cases in Milan schools alone increased by 33% in one week, said the head of the provincial health system.
The situation is dire in the Czech Republic, which registered a record number of nearly 8,500 patients at the hospital with COVID-19 this week. Poland is opening temporary hospitals and imposing a partial blockade, as the option has risen from 10% of all infections in February to 25% now.
Kluge cited Britain’s experience as a cause for optimism, noting that well-thought-out restrictions and the introduction of the vaccine have helped limit options there and in Israel. The spread of vaccines in the European Union, by comparison, is lagging behind, mainly due to supply problems.
In the UK, the emergence of the more transmissible strain led to an increase in cases in December and caused a national blockade in January. Since then, cases have plummeted from about 60,000 a day at the peak in early January to about 7,000 a day.
Still, a survey shows the pace of the slowdown is slowing, and the government says it will tread cautiously with plans to ease the lock. This process begins on Monday with the resumption of schools. The rate of infection is highest in people between the ages of 13 and 17, and staff will closely monitor whether returning to class brings a jump in infections.
While the UK option is dominant in France, imposing blockades on the French Riviera, the city of Nice and the northern port of Dunkirk, the option, first discovered in South Africa, is emerging as the most common in the Moselle region, bordering Germany and Luxembourg. It represents 55% of the virus circulating there.
The South African option is also prevalent in an area of Austria that stretches from Italy to Germany, with Austrian authorities announcing plans to vaccinate more than 84,000 people to limit its spread. In addition, Austria requires drivers on the Brenner motorway, which is a major road route from north to south, to present negative test results.
The option with South Africa, which is now present in 26 European countries, is a source of particular concern due to doubts as to whether the current vaccines are fully effective against it. The Brazilian variant, which seems capable of reinfecting people, has been found in 15 European countries.
The WHO and its partners are working to strengthen the genetic surveillance needed to track variants across the continent.
The mayor of Bollate has called on the district governor to vaccinate all 40,000 residents immediately, although he expects to be told that supplies are currently too tight.
Bolate has registered 3,000 positive cases and 134 deaths – mostly among the elderly – since Italy was affected a year ago. He took the brunt in November and December, during the fall renaissance, and was caught completely unprepared when the option arrived, racing through school-age children before hitting families at home.
“People are starting to get tired that after a year there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” Vassallo said.
AP correspondents Jill Lawless in London, Karel Janicek in Prague, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Jamie Keaton in Geneva, Sylvie Corbett in Paris, Gere Mulson in Berlin and Jovana Geck in Belgrade.
Follow the AP pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak