Find out where Covid is emerging across Europe – .

Find out where Covid is emerging across Europe – .

Europe is again at the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more cases reported every day on the continent than at any other time. In Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, infection rates have already risen to double those of last winter’s peak.

In response, governments were forced to re-impose the kinds of tough restrictions most Europeans thought were behind them. Closures have been ordered in Austria and Slovakia, with the closure of bars, restaurants and non-essential shops in a bid to bring epidemics under control in the countries.

The emergence of the new Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization believes may pose a higher risk of reinfection, has alarmed European leaders. Cases of the variant have so far been detected in travelers in more than 10 European countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Great Britain.

Speaking on a visit to Latvia, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that while it will take scientists two to three weeks to get a full picture of the variant, the highest priorities should be social distancing and the administration of a booster. dose. “The general line is: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” she added.

Even with highly effective vaccines, European health officials are still struggling to tackle the highly contagious Delta variant, as colder temperatures bring more gatherings indoors.

The winter push has highlighted disparities in vaccination rates across the continent. Even though cases have increased across the continent, it is only in poorly vaccinated countries so far that deaths have reached levels that followed similar outbreaks last winter.

How the current wave compares to last winter’s peak

Source: Local governments and Johns Hopkins University.·Note: Deaths are displayed shifted back 14 days to reflect the typical time between a positive test and death.

Experts agree that the only way to break the current cycle of relapses and restrictions is to improve immunization rates.

Bruno Ciancio, head of surveillance at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said that while lockdowns are the only choice for countries once the spread of the virus becomes unsustainable, they only help in the short term. .

“Along with the implementation of such measures, it is imperative that everything be done to really increase the level of protection of the population,” said Dr Ciancio. “Otherwise, it will just be back and forth. And unfortunately, we risk seeing this during the winter months.

Europe is a mosaic of high and low vaccination rates. Portugal and Malta are two of the most vaccinated countries in the world, with 87 percent and 86 percent of their populations fully vaccinated. But in Eastern Europe, the countryside has been damaged by disinformation and mistrust of governments. Romania has fully vaccinated 38 percent of its population, while Bulgaria has vaccinated only 25 percent of its population.

Older groups are better protected across the continent, but childhood immunization rates still lag. The European Medicines Agency on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, six months after its approval in children aged 12 to 15.

Vaccination rate by age in Europe

Share of fully vaccinated age group. The width of the bars is proportional to the share of the age group in the total population.

0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Austriaage range 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Belgium 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Bulgaria 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Croatia 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Cyprus 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Czech Republic 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Denmark 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Estonia 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Finland 0 18 25 50 60 70 80France 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Greece 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Hungary 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Ireland 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Italy 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Latvia 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Lithuania 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Malta 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Poland 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Portugal 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Romania 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Slovakia 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Slovenia 0 18 25 50 60 70 8050% 100%Spain 0 18 25 50 60 70 80Sweden

Source: European Center for Disease Prevention and Control

Despite their low risk of hospitalization or death, unvaccinated children can fuel epidemics in the wider population, as seen in England when infections in schools increased after students returned to class this year. fall. “If the virus circulates widely among young people, it will unfortunately also spread to older people,” said Dr Ciancio. “And this will increasingly be the case with waning immunity. ”

Studies in many countries have shown that the protection of vaccines against symptomatic infections decreases over time. A study in England found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were only 70% effective in preventing symptomatic infections 20 weeks after the second dose was given, compared to 90% after two weeks.

Most European countries vaccinated older people and healthcare workers at the start of their vaccination campaign, protecting them in the spring and summer, but leaving them more likely to lose their immunity now.

In many European countries, an increase in case rates among the elderly, who are more vulnerable to serious illness or death from the virus, has followed an earlier increase in case rates among children and young adults.

Case rate in different age groups

Weekly cases per 100,000 people, by age

Source: European Center for Disease Prevention and Control

Portugal, the most vaccinated country in Europe, announced new measures and a return to “the state of calamity” lifted four months ago. During the first week of January, more restrictions will be implemented during a ‘week of lockdown’ aimed at avoiding a spike in cases after the holidays: working from home will be compulsory for those who can, bars will be closed and school holidays will be extended.

Many executives are desperate to avoid the tight restrictions that could hurt their savings during the busy Christmas season. France is rolling out reminders for all adults and will not renew health cards for those who refuse. At a press conference Thursday, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said “no lockdowns, no curfews, no store closures, no travel restrictions” would be implemented. “We make the choice to reconcile freedom and responsibility”, he declared.

New restrictions have met resistance in many countries. About 40,000 people demonstrated in Austria on November 20 following news of a nationwide lockdown and compulsory vaccination. The day before in the Netherlands, police fired warning shots and used water cannons against hundreds of demonstrators who set fire to protest against the partial lockdown of the country, in which bars, cafes and shops are now closed 17 hours.

The discovery of the new variant of Omicron, classified on Friday by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern”, added an additional emergency measure to efforts by European leaders to curb the upsurge in cases on the continent.

It will take time for scientists to determine if the vaccines are still effective against the new variant, but the European Union has banned foreign travelers who have recently traveled to South Africa or Botswana, where the variant has been detected for the first time, or in one of several neighboring countries. .


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