Locks will return to Europe as deaths soar 10% in a week

Coronavirus infections are once again sweeping through parts of western Europe, nearly two years into a global health crisis that has killed more than five million people.

A World Health Organization (WHO) official said coronavirus deaths had risen by 10% in Europe in the past week, and said the continent was “back at the epicenter of the pandemic”.

Much of this is caused by explosions in Russia and Eastern Europe, but Germany and Britain are seeing high new cases. Even in countries with high vaccinations, large numbers remain unvaccinated.

While nations in Western Europe all have vaccination rates above 60% – and some like Portugal and Spain are much higher – this still leaves a significant portion of their populations unprotected, and blockade is largely a thing of the past.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health, says the large number of unvaccinated people combined with widespread post-locked resumption of socialization and a slight decrease in immunity for people who have received their stings months ago, drive. raise the rate of infections.

Thanks largely to vaccination, hospitals in Western Europe are not under the same pressure they were in earlier in the pandemic, but many are still straining to treat growing numbers of Covid patients while also trying to eliminate leftovers from tests and operations with exhausted or sick staff. .

Even the countries experiencing the worst explosions in the region have recorded far fewer deaths per person in the last four weeks than the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The question now is whether countries can reduce this latest growth without resorting to severe shutdowns that have destroyed economies, disrupted education and weighed down mental health.

Devi Sridhar, president of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said: “I think the era of locking people in their homes is over because we now have tools to control Covid – the testing, vaccines and therapies.

“So I hope people do what they have to do, like put on a mask.”

Many European countries now use Covid passes – proof of full vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test result – to access sites such as bars and restaurants.

Dr Pankhania warned that the passes could give a false sense of security because fully vaccinated people can still become infected – although their chances of dying or becoming seriously ill are drastically lower.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said people have a duty to get vaccinated to protect others.

She spoke as Germany struggled with a new rise in infections that reached a record daily high of 50,000 on Thursday.

In a conversation with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Ms Merkel said: “The virus is very, very strong.”

She added: “You have the right to be vaccinated. But, to a certain extent, you too, as a member of society, have a duty to be vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

The Dutch government is reportedly considering a limited two-week lockdown

The Netherlands has announced the highest daily count of new cases since the pandemic began, and hospitals warn the situation could worsen, but officials are hesitant to make it too difficult.

Amidst these worries, organizers in Utrecht said they cannot in good conscience gather tens of thousands of people to greet Christmas at the annual Sinterklaas festival, loved by children.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said this week that confinement for the unvaccinated is “probably inevitable”, but he does not want to impose the measure on those who received the sting.

Austria is seeing one of the largest outbreaks in Western Europe, along with Germany, which has reported a series of record-breaking infections in recent days.

Spain, once one of the most affected nations in Europe, may offer an example of how risks can be managed.

It has vaccinated 80% of its population, and while face masks are no longer mandatory outside, many people still wear them.

While infections have increased slightly recently, Rafael Bengoa, one of Spain’s leading public health experts, said that due to the high vaccination, “the virus will not be able to control us again”.

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