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Delta variant of COVID-19 creates surges in Europe and Asia, and Euro 2020 soccer tournament sparks outbreak

The global tally of confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 rose above 182 million on Thursday, as the highly infectious delta variant continued to create surges in new cases in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.

In a sign of how lethal the variant has become, both Russia and Indonesia reported record one-day death tolls, according to local media. It was Russia’s fourth straight day of record numbers and officials are launching a booster program even though most Russians have not yet have their first shots.

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe said a 10-week decline in COVID cases has come to an end. Hans Kluge told reporters that infections rose 10% last week, the Guardian reported, which he said was due to relaxed restrictions on movement and increased travel, including for the Euro 2020 soccer tournament.

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Nearly 2,000 people who live in Scotland have attended a Euro 2020 event while infectious with COVID-19, with many attending their group stage match against England in London on June 18, Scottish authorities said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. It’s not just crowded stadiums that are the problem, but also the transportation that carries fans to matches, and pubs and restaurants where they gather afterward.

The European parliament’s committee on public health is calling on the event organizer UEFA to limit capacity at matches and on the U.K. government to reconsider its decision to allow Wembley Stadium to host matches at 75% of its 90,000 capacity.

St. Petersburg, which saw the most deaths in Russia on Thursday, is due to host the Spain vs. Switzerland quarter-final on Friday in front of thousands of spectators.

The U.K. counted 26,068 new cases of COVID on Wednesday, according to its government tracker, the most since January, although deaths are rising at a far slower rate and from a low level. The delta variant accounts for 99% of those new cases.

The WHO-backed Covax program is calling on governments to recognize as fully vaccinated all people who have received the vaccines it has authorized for use when making decision on who can travel or attend events.

“Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the re-opening of travel into and with that region would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” Covax said in a statement. “It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.”

See now: WHO says delta variant of COVID means even vaccinated people should keep wearing face masks, as more Asian cities lock down

Olympics organizers have created an archipelago of controlled zones across Japan for about 60,000 foreign visitors including athletes and staff. WSJ’s Alastair Gale visits the Olympic Village to see the challenges of preventing a superspreader event. Photos: AFP via Getty, Bloomberg News/Zuma Press/AP

In medical news, Germany’s CureVac
CVAC,
-7.59%

said final results for its once-promising Covid-19 vaccine, finding it provided less protection than the vaccines already authorized for use in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported.

The company said its vaccine was 48% effective in providing protection against COVID-19 of any severity, regardless of age, in a large, pivotal study.

There was better news for biotech NovaVax
NVAX,
+1.19%
,
when The New England Journal of Medicine published a “final analysis” looking at how Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate performed in a Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in 15,000 participants in the U.K. An earlier analysis of the data was previously published as a preprint.

According to the new study, Novavax’s experimental vaccine has an overall efficacy rate of 96.4% against the original strain of the virus and an 86.3% efficacy rate against the Alpha variant, which was first identified in the U.K. and has been the most dominant form of the virus in many countries since the start of the year. Novavax did not mention the Delta variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that 154.9 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two doses of the vaccines developed by Pfizer
PFE,
+0.84%

and German partner BioNTech
BNTX,
-0.02%

and Moderna
MRNA,
-0.07%
,
or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s
JNJ,
+0.56%

one-shot regimen. The AstraZeneca
AZN,
+0.72%

AZN,
+0.68%

vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.

Among adults 18-years-and-older, 57.4% are fully vaccinated and 66.5% have received at least one shot, close to President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of the adult population receive at least one shot by July 4.

Don’t miss: Full FDA approval of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 shots would reinvigorate the U.S. vaccination push — but it could still be months away

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness headed above 182 million on Thursday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while deaths climbed above 3.94 million.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases at 33.7 million, and by deaths that total 604,719. 

India is second in total cases at 30.4 million and third by fatalities at 399,459, although those numbers are expected to be undercounted given a shortage of tests.

Brazil has the third-highest caseload at 18.6 million, according to JHU data, and is second in deaths at 518,066.

Mexico has fourth-highest death toll at 233,047 and 2.5 million cases.

In Europe, Russia has overtaken the U.K. by deaths. Russia has 133,633 fatalities, while the U.K. has 128,404, making Russia the country with the fifth-highest death toll in the world and highest in Europe.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,769 confirmed cases and 4,847 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.

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