"The ECDC has classified all XBB.1.5-type strains with the additional F456L amino acid alteration as variants of interest. This is due to a rapid increase in the proportion of these variants currently in circulation, which may have immune evasion properties compared to the variants that were previously in circulation", indicates the community agency in a press release.

Without specifying, the European center refers to an "increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in the EU/EEA [European Union/European Economic Area] and abroad, after several months of very low infection rates", without there being any "signs of increased hospitalisations or pressure on health systems".

“Based on what is observed in countries outside the EU/EEA, it is likely that F456L variants will contribute to the increase in transmission in the coming weeks. However, levels are unlikely to reach the previous peaks seen during the covid pandemic -19 and it is equally unlikely that the F456L variants are associated with any increase in the severity of the infection compared to previously circulating variants, or with reduced vaccine efficacy against severe disease.

As with other SARS-CoV-2 variants, older individuals and those with underlying illnesses can develop severe symptoms if they are infected, recalls the ECDC.

For this reason, the European agency urges the Member States of the European Union to expand the use of vaccines against covid-19 and to communicate data on population surveillance in primary and secondary care, in order to timely monitor transmission trends.

"Compliance with national vaccination schedules is essential to protect people at high risk of serious illness and death. Countries should assess their availability to identify target groups and carry out vaccination campaigns against covid-19 in a timely manner ", calls the ECDC.

The position comes after, last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the strain EG.5 of SARS-CoV-2, classified as of interest, could cause an increase in the incidence of infections and become dominant in some countries or even in the world.