Despite the widespread availability of vaccines this winter compared to last, Europe is the only part of the world to report an increase in new cases of Covid-19 globally, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday ( WHO). This is the third week in a row that the region has recorded an increase in cases, he added.
Suffering has been acute in Eastern Europe and Russia, battling rising deaths and cases fueled by vaccine reluctance which has seen coverage rates drop to 24%, data shows of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Last Thursday, Latvia became the first country in the European Union to impose a lockdown as the country grapples with a spike in cases amid low vaccination rates. Only 56% of all adults received both doses of the vaccine against a European average of 74.6%.
Western Europe is also the source of the increase in Covid-19 cases despite some countries benefiting from almost universal vaccination coverage. The incidence rate of Covid in Germany rose to 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants on Saturday for the first time since May. Belgium, alongside Ireland, has one of the highest case rates in Western Europe, according to the ECDC, of ​​325.76 and 432.84 per 100,000 people, respectively.
Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbrouck told broadcaster VRT on Wednesday that the country was in a fourth wave. More than 85% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, and officials say the vast majority of hospitalized Covid-19 patients have not been bitten, Reuters reported.
The different vaccination rates have put Eastern and Western Europe on two distinct paths, but what they share are increased case rates by easing pandemic restrictions as economies grow. ‘open, with the cold pushing people in and the highly transmissible Delta variant, now dominant in the region, Dr Peter Drobac, global health expert at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School, told CNN in England.

Reluctance to vaccination

The number of cases may be high in some Western European countries, but thanks to vaccines, Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations have remained largely stable compared to their Eastern counterparts.

From Monday, Romania will reintroduce nighttime curfews and make health passes mandatory for most sites, days after registering 19.25 deaths per million people – one of the Covid death rates – 19 highest in the world per capita.

Romania’s woes are not due to vaccine shortages. EU countries have access to all vaccines approved by the EU, but like many countries from the Baltic to the Balkans, the rollout of the vaccine in Romania has been hampered by reluctance to vaccinate, poor communication from the government and mistrust of the authorities. According to the ECDC, only 35.6% of its adult population is fully vaccinated.

Neighboring Ukraine reported its highest daily count of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began on Thursday, of 22,415 cases, days after President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with nationals to get vaccinated, saying it ‘was the only way to prevent a lockdown.

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“There are two paths at this crossroads: vaccination or lockdown,” Zelensky said in a TV interview with Ukrainian broadcaster ICTV on Monday. “Every day we face this challenge and this choice. I am totally against containment … because of the economy.”

But on Friday, schools in Ukrainian Covid hotspots were closed and the government announced vaccine certificates or a negative test to access public transport in the capital after the daily death toll hit a record 614, according to Reuters .
Russia is going through the worst phase of the pandemic in its history. Moscow began a 10-day lockdown on Monday as officials openly admitted the country faced a terrible winter. It has reported its highest toll of daily cases and deaths on multiple occasions in recent days and on Wednesday recorded a record 1,028 official deaths.
Doctors work in the intensive care unit for Covid-19 patients at Sklifosovsky Emergency Hospital in Moscow on October 20.

“Of course, not everything that needed to be done to inform and explain the inevitability and importance of vaccination,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters as the Kremlin recognized partial responsibility for the low vaccination rates. “But at the same time, the citizens of our country need to take a more responsible stance and get vaccinated,” he said.

No silver bullets

Western Europe will not reach the crisis levels we have seen in the past – with the establishment of field hospitals – [because] vaccines have definitely been a game-changer and in that sense there should be plenty of reasons for optimism, ”said health expert Drobac.

The UK is showing, however, that vaccines are not a silver bullet, he added.

Britain has the most daily cases in Western Europe after dropping nearly all of its pandemic restrictions this summer. Health experts and medical unions have pleaded with the UK government to reimpose measures such as mask warrants or vaccine passes, according to other European countries, to prevent measures being imposed restrictive such as blockages.
    Health officials are urging the UK government to reinstate some restrictions on coronaviruses, such as mask warrants, in indoor environments.

But his government has rejected such a move even as hospitalizations and deaths rise. Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Care, told Sky News on Sunday that the country’s health services were already in “a terrible place” due to Covid-19. Emergency services across the UK are “already struggling to cope” with the “big queues” of ambulances piling up outside, she said.

Instead, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people over 50 and those at high risk of Covid-19 to get a booster shot in a bid to overcome the decline in vaccine protection after six months.

UK has more new Covid-19 cases than France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined

This will not be enough amid skyrocketing cases which may be fertile ground for the creation of new variants. The UK Health Security Agency on Friday named a descendant of the Delta variant, AY.4.2, a “variant under investigation” due to “some early evidence that it may have an increased growth rate in the UK compared to Delta, ”the government said. agency wrote.

“In the UK, the strategy has been very much about letting vaccinations do all the work. And I don’t think that’s going to be enough,” Drobac said.

It is a dangerous strategy that relies on infecting the unvaccinated, such as children, to create a “level of overall population immunity against natural infections and vaccination,” he said. “The problem with this, of course, is that it not only allows an unacceptable level of hospitalizations and deaths, but also that it may not work,” he added.

As UK drags its feet on new measures, Ireland holds back dropping pandemic restrictions amid resurgence of cases despite one of Europe’s highest vaccination rates – by 92% of the fully vaccinated population, according to ECDC.

A health and nursing assistant stands in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany.

At a press conference last Tuesday, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said that passes for the Covid-19 vaccine will remain in place for hospitality and indoor events, masks will continue to be mandatory in Indoor public spaces and indoor hospitality will be limited to table service only.

Europe does not need a “sleepwalker” towards the blockages and deaths of last winter, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergency program, said wednesday. We don’t know what the epidemic period will be in two months, three months … we will have to be a little careful … a little careful. ”

Tara John has written and reported from London. Rob Picheta, Niamh Kennedy, Ivana Kottasová, Frederik Pleitgen, Hannah Ritchie, Sharon Braithwaite, Allegra Goodwin and Katharina Krebs contributed to this piece.

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