A new western European summer Covid wave appears to be developing, with increases in cases in countries that also saw large waves in the summer of 2021.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the area of Europe that was affected by a summer Covid wave in 2021. The area stretches from France to Portugal, but seems to be centred on southern Spain and Gibraltar in particular.
The summer wave of 2021 was not as large as the winter waves that preceded it or came after it, but it was, for some countries, larger than the spring wave of 2021.
Below is the chart showing the spring and summer waves of 2021. You can see the summer bump in cases which started on about the 10th of June, and it lasted until early October 2021 when the winter wave started to form.
This is what the 2021 western European spring and summer waves looked like:
Now let’s scroll ahead to May 2022. You can a similar summer wave already starting to form in some of the same areas of western Europe. The relaxation in travel restrictions across this region may have brought the start of the summer wave forward by about a month compared to 2021.
Gibraltar, Andorra and Portugal are already seeing an increase in cases, and we suspect that Spain and France will soon join them as the wave gathers strength.
These summer waves could well be associated with the movement of tourists across Europe and into Spain and Portugal for the holiday season.
The more easterly parts of Europe didn’t see a significant summer wave in 2021, although Greece and Turkey, two other popular European holiday destinations, did see a higher level of cases than other countries in the region a few weeks later that summer. Perhaps a “Mediterranean summer wave” would be a more accurate description of the phenomenon.
Some news out today might give a clue as to which SARS-CoV-2 variant could fuel the summer wave. Portugal has announced that 37% of its new cases there are of the BA.5 variety, the highly transmissible successor to BA.2.
Fantastic variant surveillance in Portugal combining precise sequencing with fast PCR S-Gene-Target-Failure data indicates that BA.5 may make up a 1/3 of Portuguese cases on 8th of May.
Based on 2w old sequencing data, UK/US/Germany relative share of BA.4/5 appears ~10x smaller https://t.co/kaEs85Lzzo
— Cornelius Roemer (@CorneliusRoemer) May 11, 2022
Prediction: We think that the relaxation in travel restrictions and other Covid mitigations in 2022 will mean a LARGER summer wave in western areas of Europe than in 2021. A lack of testing this year may mean that the wave goes largely unrecorded however.
We are flying blind now. Stay safe!
UPDATE 1 – 13th May 2022 – that escalated quickly….
UPDATE 2 – 13th May 2022 – BA.4 and BA.5 reclassified as Variants of Concern