Europe has once again become an epicenter of the coronavirus, questioning the region’s efforts to recover from the pandemic.
Despite an abundance of Covid-19 fire, countries from Germany to Greece have reported record infections in recent days, while Romania and Bulgaria are experiencing horrific levels of deaths and overwhelmed hospitals.
This puts new urgency in efforts to immunize the masses, whether it’s getting the first doses into the arms of tens of millions of vaccinees or preparing to offer booster shots to hundreds of millions of people. others.
While governments are reluctant to reintroduce lockdowns, countries like Latvia have already concluded that there is currently little alternative.
Here’s a look at the pandemic across Europe after a sobering week:
The fourth wave of Covid in Germany is hitting hard, with infections reaching record levels this week and hospitals in some hot spots becoming overwhelmed. The country is now calling on all adults to receive booster shots six months after their second dose, with Health Minister Jens Spahn saying this should be “the rule, not the exception”.
With 16 million Germans eligible for Covid vaccines having so far refused them, authorities have little recourse but to push for greater protection for those who wish to roll up their sleeves. The country’s efforts to respond are further complicated by a shift in power. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s authority is fading as Social Democrat Olaf Scholz continues his efforts to form a new government.
Coronavirus infections in England hit a new high in October, according to a large study from Imperial College London. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the study sent an “important message” about the need to remain vigilant before winter.
Last month, the country launched its largest flu vaccination campaign to address concerns over a spike in Covid cases coinciding with a resurgent flu. National Health Service walk-in centers in England have started offering coronavirus reminders to people at risk without an appointment. The UK regulator also became the first in the world to approve the Covid-19 antiviral pill from Merck & Co.
In Italy, parts of the north, including Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, have seen a rapid increase in cases, linked in part to protests by anti-vaccine campaigners against the introduction of a mandatory pass. The increase prompted authorities to redouble their efforts to get people vaccinated.
“We are working to extend the booster dose to new age groups from next week,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza told a press conference in Rome on Friday. “We still have to catch up with the first doses and speed up the third. “
In France, where government restrictions have kept infections at relatively low levels, cases are starting to rise again. Authorities across the country will reinstate mask-wearing warrants in schools, while President Emmanuel Macron will take stock of the situation in a nationwide address on Tuesday.
Macron’s policy of requiring proof of vaccination for restaurants, cinemas and other venues has helped bolster the vaccination campaign and has been widely credited with keeping the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths below levels below. those of certain neighboring countries. The French legislature on Friday passed a bill that would keep the vaccination passport system in place until the end of July 2022, and authorities are now encouraging older people to get vaccinated.
Spain is a rare light point in Europe. Infections have remained low since September, with hospital admissions continuing to decline significantly.
More than 88% of people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated and more than one million people have received a booster since the government approved the measure in early October.
While Portugal reported the highest number of daily cases on Thursday since September 9, the latest figures are still only a fraction of the peak in January, when the country faced one of the world’s worst epidemics.
About 86% of the country’s population is now fully vaccinated, among the highest rates in the world.
The number of daily cases in Ireland is at its highest since January. The country suspended its intention to drop most of the remaining restrictions last month.
Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday refused to rule out new activity limits before the end of the year if the healthcare system comes under further pressure.
In Greece, five records in the past six days have resulted in a new round of restrictions, with unvaccinated people now having to test negative for Covid to visit certain stores, beauty salons and restaurants.
The measures exempted supermarkets and pharmacies, but also churches, prompting more criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
In Denmark, where more than 75% of the population is fully vaccinated, the number of daily cases has doubled in the past 10 days and hospitalizations have increased.
Soren Brostrom, head of the country’s health authority, urged the government on Thursday to reintroduce certain restrictions, including the use of Covid-19 passports at public events.
Hungary’s slow vaccination campaign and lack of Covid measures have helped fuel one of the fastest infection growth rates in the world.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban is now trying to tighten some restrictions, including reintroducing a mask mandate on public transport. Employers are also allowed to require vaccination certificates from workers, which can be sent on unpaid leave if they refuse. In an interview with state radio on Friday, Orban said further restrictions could be introduced later, without providing details.
The Czech Republic recorded its worst week of infections since March, when it suffered one of the deadliest epidemics in the world. Hospitalizations are at their highest level in six months and deaths are also on the rise.
The country is tightening the rules to make it more difficult for unvaccinated people to visit restaurants, as well as sporting and cultural events. But the outgoing government refuses to impose tougher social distancing measures or to shut down parts of the economy again.
The Baltic Sea region has some of the highest per capita infection rates in the world. Estonia is considering further restrictions if the situation deteriorates.
Last month, Latvia became the first EU member state to re-impose a four-week lockdown after an increase in the number of cases threatening to overwhelm hospitals. The country’s parliament passed a law on Thursday, giving employers the green light to fire unvaccinated workers.
Lithuania is extending school holidays to slow the spread of the virus among children.
Romania recorded the highest death rate in the world last week. The lack of available beds has left people stranded in ambulances or in need of treatment in hospital corridors. Some patients received oxygen in their car.
Bulgaria, the least vaccinated member of the EU, has experienced its deadliest week in the pandemic, with more than 1,000 deaths. Authorities are tightening measures, while seeking to avoid a lockdown ahead of the November 14 general election.
The Western Balkans have seen near-record infection levels in recent days. Serbia experienced its deadliest month in the pandemic in October. Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo follow closely behind.
Croatia tightened its measures on Friday after reporting record infections. Public gatherings will be limited to 50 people, except in cases where each participant has a vaccine pass. The government also made vaccinations mandatory for all public sector employees from November 15.