🇪🇺Where are we in the pandemic?

Letter from Europe #12 

The Story

State of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe

Bring me up to date. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, the number of cases in Europe respectively the European Union is slowly falling. But there are significant differences between the countries. In Serbia, the seven-day average of the daily new COVID-19 cases is 1000 per one million people; in Poland, it is 17. For comparison: On average, in Europe, it's 157; in the European Union (EU), it is 107.

How can the differences be explained?

In part, it can certainly be explained by the differences in the vaccination progress. In Serbia, just 44 per cent of the total population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, the protective measures are a matter of the country. These measures still vary significantly from country to country. 

Tell me more about these differences. 

Let's look at those countries that received the most attention during the pandemic. 

UK: With 2000 confirmed deaths per million people, the United Kingdom was hit early and badly in the pandemic. Subsequently, it had one of Europe's longest and strictest lockdowns. It was also the first European country to have access to vaccination doses. In July this year, the UK lifted almost all remaining restrictions. The number of cases, which was already increasing, continued to rise. With about 450 confirmed cases daily per million people, the country is still far above the European average. So is the number of weekly new hospital admissions with 100 per million people (compare: Germany: 15, Italy 20, France: 50). 

Germany: There are still coronavirus-related social distancing regulations in place. Pupils have to wear a mask in school, and masks are also mandatory in public transport. Anyone who wants to go to an indoor restaurant or cafe, to the movies, or visit relatives in a hospital or nursing home must either be fully vaccinated, show proof they have recovered from COVID-19 or need a negative test not be older than 24 hours. This 3G rule, in German - geimpft, genesen, getestet (vaccinated, recovered, tested) - currently applies nationwide. Germany has currently a major discussion about tightening the reins and implementing 2G, which would give admissions only to vaccinated or recovered people. The pressure to get vaccinated will intensify on 11 October, when people will have to pay for the previously free rapid tests and the far safer PCR test. Also, the German government has not given a target date for lifting the regulations. Currently confirmed cases in Germany are below the European average.

Italy: Hit hardest in the first wave, Italy had taken severe measures since then. Last week it became the first country in Europe to make it mandatory for all public and private sector workers to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery from infection. With a share of 73 per cent of people who received at least one dose of COVID19-vaccine, Italy has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe. 

Ireland: As Italy and the UK, Ireland had one of Europe's harshest lockdowns. The measures took effect. The country had one of the lowest case numbers and deaths. There are still some restrictions in Ireland as limiting capacity at indoor and outdoor events. Fully vaccinated people are allowed to meet indoors in groups of up to 100. The government plans to remove the final remaining restrictions on face coverings, social distancing, and large gatherings from the end of October. Currently, cases are low, so is the number of COVID-19-patients in hospitals. 

Denmark: With the highest vaccination rate across Europe (76 per cent of the population), Denmark lifted almost all restrictions last week. No masks, no rules for indoor gatherings. The number of COVID-19-patients is low, so is the transmission rate. This so-called R-rate is currently standing at 0.7, which means that the epidemic is continuing to shrink. 

Sweden: In terms of hospitalizations and cases, Sweden is currently like Denmark. The numbers are low. Sweden was an outlier in Western Europe when it resisted a strict lockdown in 2020. But with 1450 confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people that number is more than three times as high as Denmark's (459). 

France: The swings of the pandemic waves were extreme in France. Recently, the number of cases dropped sharply and is now below the European average. The measures were and are strict. The government has implemented restrictions on unvaccinated people to advance vaccination rollout. As of last week, healthcare workers must be fully immunized, and "health passes" are needed to enter restaurants or travel long distances. Around 3,000 healthcare workers have been suspended after missing the deadline to get fully vaccinated.

Sum it up. 

On average, the number of cases has decreased over the past few weeks. That doesn't say much about the future. Only that much is certain: This pandemic has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated