Europe learns to live with coronavirus, even as cases rise

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Yet risks remain.

New infections have exploded in recent weeks, especially in France and Spain. France recorded more than 10,000 cases in a single day last week. The jump is not surprising since the total number of tests performed – now around one million per week – has increased steadily and is now more than 10 times what it was in the spring.

The death rate of around 30 people a day is only a small fraction of what it was at its peak when hundreds and sometimes more than 1,000 died every day in France. This is because those infected now tend to be younger and health officials have learned to treat Covid-19 better, said William Dab, epidemiologist and former French national health director.

“The virus is still circulating freely, we have poor control of the chain of infections, and inevitably people at high risk – the elderly, the obese, the diabetic – will eventually be affected,” Dab said.

In Germany, too, young people are over-represented among the increasing cases of infections.

As German health authorities test more than a million people per week, a debate has arisen over the relevance of infection rates to provide insight into the pandemic.

In early September, only 5% of confirmed cases were due to go to hospital for treatment, according to data from the country’s health authority. At the height of the pandemic in April, up to 22% of those infected ended up in hospital.

Hendrik Streeck, head of virology at a research hospital in the German city of Bonn, warned that the pandemic should not be judged simply by the number of infections, but rather by deaths and hospitalizations.

“We have reached a phase where the number of infections alone is no longer as significant,” said Mr Streeck.

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