- Saulet Tanirbergen
Fourth wave? - How Europe is dealing with rising COVID cases by Saulet Tanirbergen
Despite vaccines becoming more accessible in Europe — especially in comparison with the rest of the world — the region continues to battle with surges in coronavirus infections. However, how each country handles this progression and how successful their efforts will be can only be told with time.
The United Kingdom is offering more boosters in lieu of imposing restrictions with Health Minister Sajid Javid claiming that getting a booster is part of the “national mission” to avoid restrictions during Christmas. Thus far, 10 million people have received the third jab of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK, which Javid calls a “phenomenal achievement”. This is all in effort to avoid what the government calls Plan B, which would include measures such as making face coverings mandatory in public and introducing ‘Covid’ passports to enter certain venues.
So far, no such measures have been deemed necessary by the Johnson administration as infection numbers come down. Since last week, cases went down from 43,467 to 34,029. However, it is important to remember these statistics are deeply impacted by the amount of people choosing to get tested. Experts also warn that looking at the headline number of cases is not enough to understand the issues surrounding infections. For example, the recent dip in cases could be ascribed to the fact that the number of cases among schoolchildren seem to be in decline. Professor Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh warns that: “ Over-interpreting those large fluctuations in low-risk groups is misleading and I'm quite worried about those at high risk. Underlying those waves, there's been a rather steady increase in older age groups and I'm concerned about that.”
Meanwhile, many European countries are considering imposing restrictions once again and some, like the Netherlands, already have. As of early November, the Dutch government has made mask-wearing and Covid passes mandatory for public spaces after a dramatic rise in cases led to more hospitalisations. Similarly, Germany is experiencing a record high of 37,000 cases per day with an incidence rate of infection that is higher now than it was in April. German officials are due to discuss countermeasures to avoid a potentially devastating fallout on the population. Head of WHO Europe, Hans Kluge, blames insufficient vaccination and relaxed measures for the recent wave of infections. For example, while 80% of the population in Spain is fully vaccinated, in Germany the number is at a low 66%. In the UK, 68% of the population is double jabbed. Kluge warns that Europe is now “at the epicentre” of the pandemic.
But, among its European counterparts, Russia was most heavily affected by the pandemic with 8.7 million cases and 450,000 cases. Despite President Vladimir Putin announcing a stay-at-home week for all except essential workers to slow the spread of the virus, the country reported a record high of 41,335 cases in 24 hours. This could be explained by Russia’s exceptionally low vaccination rate of 33.8%, even though it was first to announce the development of a COVID vaccine, Sputnik V. The vaccine continues to be unapproved by the WHO, making it difficult for many of those that were inoculated with it to travel to many countries, such as the United States. More and more Russians are choosing to travel to other countries, such as Serbia, to receive jabs that were approved by the WHO. Another reason why Russia’s so-called ‘lockdown’ has so far been unsuccessful could be due to the fact that many Russian citizens have used the week to travel within their country.