More than half of all European adults are now fully vaccinated, the European Union said, but the milestone came as countries across the world are battling fresh outbreaks blamed on the fast-spreading Delta variant.
The EU said on Thursday that 200 million Europeans had been fully vaccinated, more than half of the adult population but still short of a 70 percent target set for the summer.
The fresh data came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said cases in her country were rising “exponentially” and she urged more Germans to get jabs.
“The number of infections has been rising again for a few days now, with a clear and, in my opinion, worrying momentum. The whole thing is driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus,” she said at a Berlin news conference on Thursday.
Germany has seen an incidence rate of 12.2 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days – more than double the rates in early July.
“With a rising incidence rate, it could be that we need to introduce additional measures,” she said.
Germany joins a number of European nations that have seen cases climb in recent weeks spurred by the Delta variant, first detected in India.
European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde warned of growing economic uncertainty caused by the Delta variant, as the bank kept its vast stimulus for the eurozone firmly in place following a meeting of its 25-member governing council.
“The euro area economy is rebounding strongly,” Lagarde said, but the Delta variant could damp the post-lockdown recovery “in services, especially in tourism and hospitality”, she said.
France this week rolled out new rules requiring a so-called health pass for all events or places with more than 50 people before being extended to restaurants, cafés and shopping centres in August.
People need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to gain access, after the country reported a new surge – more than 21,000 new cases on Wednesday, the highest level since early May.
The Italian government, also looking to contain a fresh surge in coronavirus cases, announced on Thursday that from August 6 people must present proof of immunity to access an array of services and leisure activities.
Cases are also soaring in the United Kingdom, where most restrictions were lifted this week, and on Thursday British supermarkets warned of possible food shortages because staff were being forced to self-isolate.