Thu. Jun 10th, 2021

ECDC has published a new COVID-19 Rapid Risk Assessment titled Assessing SARS-CoV-2 circulation, variants of concern, non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccine rollout in the EU/EEA, 15th update

Key points of the report:

  • Most countries in Europe reporting declining trends in 14-day COVID-19 notification rates, hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy, and mortality. However, SARS-CoV-2 transmission remains widespread in large part of the EU/EEA. A large proportion of the population across Europe still remains susceptible to the virus and population immunity is far from being reached.
  • As of 3 June, the median cumulative vaccine uptake in the EU/EEA adult population (aged 18 years and older) reached 46.2% for at least one vaccine dose and 22.3% for the full vaccination course. The highest level of vaccine uptake was observed among the elderly aged 80+.
  • One of the main public health goals in the current phase of the pandemic is to reduce severe COVID-19 disease and mortality by ensuring full vaccination for risk groups, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
  • Countries with a favourable epidemiological situation and progress toward high vaccine uptake in priority groups may consider adjusting and phasing out their Non-pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), following a careful assessment of their local situation.
  • Decisions to ease measures need to be highly sensitive to the local context and include considerations about the current viral circulation, the prevalence of Variants of Concern  (VOCs) and the vaccination status. Modelling analysis shows that a significant increase in COVID-19-related cases in the EU/EEA remains possible if NPIs are relaxed too rapidly.
  • The emergence and spread of VOCs, that are potentially more transmissible or cause more severe disease or escape natural or vaccine-induced immunity, requires strong surveillance measures and enhanced measures to stop, delay or reduce the spread.
  • The risk of introduction of new variants in the EU is closely related to the pandemic evolution within as well as outside of the EU. Efforts to ensure more equitable access to vaccination globally can mitigate the risk of the emergence of new variants.
  • Introduction of SARS-CoV-2 by travel-related cases, including of new virus variants, can play a role in triggering increased community transmission of COVID-19, particularly when levels of transmission in the receiving locality are low. As such, carefully and rigorously implemented travel measures can have an impact on the introduction and further transmission of new variants of virus, or on re-introduction of any form of virus, if local levels of transmission are low.
  • For events with the potential to give rise to mass gatherings, such as the UEFA Euro 2020, monitoring of the epidemiological situation and implementation of preventive and mitigation measures should be done with a coordinated intersectoral approach.

Please find below a quote by Andrea Ammon, ECDC Director:

“Things are moving in the right direction, with most countries in Europe reporting declining trends in 14-day COVID-19 notification rates, hospital- and intensive care unit occupancy, and mortality” said Andrea Ammon, ECDC Director. “However, SARS-CoV-2 transmission remains widespread in large part of the EU/EEA. A large proportion of the population across Europe still remains susceptible to the virus. There are still too few people fully vaccinated to reach population immunity. Decisions to ease measures need to be highly sensitive to the local context and should include considerations about the current viral circulation, the prevalence of variants of concern and vaccination coverage.”

For a filmed video statement by ECDC infectious diseases expert Pasi Penttinen, please visit https://youtu.be/7iY2-4k7UnE

For the audio file from this statement, please visit https://soundcloud.com/ecdc_eu/ecdcs-expert-pasi-penttinen-on-15th-update-of-the-covid-19-rapid-risk-assessment