Moritz Frankenber / dpa / picture alliance via Getty I.
Another wave of COVID-19 is sweeping across Europe, setting new records in some countries.
In Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, records for daily infections have been shattered in the last few days. While deaths from COVID-19 in many European countries have declined significantly compared to the previous year, Russia – with barely a third of its population vaccinated – has seen a steady two-month increase and is now leading the total number of deaths for the first time in the world by coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic.
The Dutch government announced on Friday that the country will return to a partial lockdown starting Saturday to help slow the spread of coronavirus cases.
The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report for the week ending November 7 showed that Europe, including Russia, was the only region with a 10% increase in deaths from the virus. Overall, new coronavirus cases have decreased in most of the world, but increased 7% in Europe and 3% in Africa.
Last week, WHO Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, the region is “back in the epicenter of the pandemic – where we were a year ago”.
A virologist with Warwick Medical School in the UK, Lawrence Young, told Reuters that the recent surge is another tough lesson for Europe. “If there’s one thing you can learn from this, it’s not to take your eyes off the ball,” he said.
Vaccination hesitation is a factor
Vaccine hesitation, declining immunity under the already vaccinated and relaxed restrictions are considered factors of the new wave, according to Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has attributed the increase in new cases and deaths directly to hesitation, saying he cannot understand why Russians are reluctant to receive the country’s Sputnik-V vaccine.
In Germany, where cases rose to a new record of more than 50,000 on Thursday, the country’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has said his country must do “whatever it takes” to break the latest wave of the disease, the reported German wave.
“The situation is serious and I recommend everyone to understand it as such,” he said. Spahn and the head of the German Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, Lothar Wieler, warned of severe stress in intensive care units across the country from COVID-19 patients, especially in the federal states of Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria.
Spahn said that free COVID-19 tests will be offered again from Saturday.
Olaf Scholz, likely successor to Angela Merkel as the next Federal Chancellor, has called on people to either get vaccinated, recover or be tested negative in order to go to work and stricter rules for entering restaurants and cinemas.
Almost a third of the German population has not yet been fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
Countries with high vaccination rates and strict regulations have generally fared better
In contrast, Portugal and Spain – where few new cases occurred – top the European vaccination statistics with rates of over 80%. Infections are also low in France, where restrictions have been in place since the summer, including the requirement to show a vaccination certificate in order to do almost anything.
Austria – which has a vaccination rate similar to Germany and also recorded record infections last week – appears to be days away from banning anyone who is not fully vaccinated.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg called a nationwide ban on unvaccinated people “probably inevitable” and added that two thirds of the population do not have to suffer because the other third refuses to be vaccinated.
If the federal government agrees, Upper Austria will impose restrictions on unvaccinated people from Monday. Salzburg is considering similar measures.
Schallenberg said the unvaccinated face would have an “uncomfortable” winter and Christmas.
A three-week partial ban was announced in the Netherlands on Friday, Reuters reported.
During one press conference On Friday, Acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the country would return to a partial lockdown from Saturday, closing all bars and restaurants at 8 p.m. and holding sporting events without an audience.
Dutch government officials also recommended that no more than four visitors be allowed in people’s homes.
Denmark, which has also seen a boom recently, instructed its population this week to present a passport in the form of a smartphone app when entering bars, restaurants and other public places. According to Reuters, it is also considering accelerated legislation to require employers to have a digital “Corona passport”.
While the UK saw a similar spike in cases last month, there have been signs of a flattening since then.
Jonathan Franklin of MediaFrolic contributed to this report.