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A new wave of COVID-19 is sweeping Europe, setting new records in some countries and prompting governments to impose new lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
Records for daily infections have been shattered in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria in recent days. While the number of deaths from COVID-19 in many European countries is much lower than last year, Russia – with barely a third of the population vaccinated – has experienced a steady two-month increase and is now leading the world for the first time since total number of deaths from coronavirus. the start of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report for the week ending Nov. 7 showed that Europe, including Russia, was the only region with a 10% increase in deaths from the virus. Overall, new coronavirus cases declined in most of the world, but increased by 7% in Europe and by 3% in Africa.
Last week, WHO director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, that the region is “back in the epicenter of the pandemic – where we were a year ago”.
A virologist at Warwick Medical School in the UK, Lawrence Young, told Reuters the latest wave is another hard lesson for Europe. “If we can learn anything from this, it’s not to take your eyes off the ball,” he said.
Vaccine hesitation is a factor
Vaccine hesitation, waning immunity under the already inoculated and relaxed restrictions are all considered factors in the new wave, according to Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has attributed the increase in new cases and deaths there entirely to hesitation, saying he cannot understand why Russians are hesitant to get the country’s Sputnik V vaccine.
In Germany, where the number of cases rose to a new all-time high of more than 50,000 on Thursday, Health Minister Jens Spahn has said his country must “do everything” to break the latest wave of the disease, Deutsche Welle reported.
“The situation is serious and I advise everyone to see it as such,” he said. Spahn and the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, Lothar Wieler, warned that intensive care units across the country were under heavy pressure from COVID-19 patients, particularly in the states of Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria.
Spahn said free COVID-19 testing will again be offered from Saturday.
Olaf Scholz, likely Angela Merkel’s successor as Germany’s next chancellor, has called on people to get vaccinated, recover or pass negative tests to go to work and for stricter rules on entering restaurants and cinemas.
Nearly a third of the German population is not yet fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Countries with high vaccination rates and strict mandates have generally outperformed
By contrast, Portugal and Spain – where the number of new cases was minimal – top the European vaccination statistics, with rates above 80%. Infection rates are also low in France, which has maintained restrictions since the summer, including a requirement to show a vaccine passport to do almost anything.
Austria – which has a vaccination rate comparable to Germany’s and which has also posted record infections in the past week – appears to be days away from imposing a lockdown on anyone who has not been fully vaccinated.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has called a national lockdown for unvaccinated “probably inevitable”, adding that two-thirds of the population should not suffer because the other third refused to be vaccinated.
If the federal government approves, Upper Austria will impose restrictions on the unvaccinated from Monday. Salzburg is considering similar measures.
Schallenberg said the unvaccinated is going to have an “uncomfortable” winter and Christmas.
In the Netherlands, a partial three-week lockdown is expected to be announced soon, Reuters reported. As a result, bars and restaurants will close earlier and sporting events will be held without an audience.
Denmark, which has also seen a recent rise in cases, this week ordered its people to show a pass in the form of a smartphone app when entering bars, restaurants and other public places. It is also considering accelerated legislation to mandate a digital “corona pass” for employers, according to Reuters.
While the UK saw a similar increase in cases last month, there have been signs of a leveling off since then.