Europe should be mindful of a possible new COVID-19 variant spreading through the region, according to one of Europe’s top economic experts.

Paolo Gentiloni, the E.U.’s commissioner for economics and taxation, said the pandemic isn’t over yet as cases continue to rise in Europe, according to CNBC.

  • “It’s still the pandemic,” Gentiloni said, per CNBC. “We should be very cautious on possible new variants and we need to strengthen vaccination.”

Gentiloni said the rise of new COVID-19 cases could lead to new restrictions, too.

  • “They will not have the same impact, the same economic impact than previous ones ... our economy is more acquainted to these kind of situations,” he added.

These comments come as a new COVID-19 variant has made headlines in Europe. French paper Le Telegramme reported that a new variant — called B.1.X or B.1.640 — had some mutations to the spike protein that scientists haven’t seen before.

Cyrille Cohen, a professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that the B.1.640 variant likely came from Africa and is a sign of what can happen if more people don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • “I don’t want to frighten people,” he said. “There are just a few cases of B.1.640 now and it could very well be that in a month we could all forget about this variant.
  • “But it is an example of what could happen if there isn’t access to vaccines for everyone.”

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