The World Health Organization warns of a fourth wave of pandemics in Europe. New cases are constantly increasing. Experts also fear an increase in deaths.
According to WHO experts, a number of causes are leading to a new increase in coronavirus cases across Europe: skepticism about vaccines that still exists, the cold that brings people indoors, the indifference sometimes to mask use and the reduction of protection against vaccination, which usually weakens five months after the first dose. The more widespread Delta mutation is also considered more contagious.
The head of the WHO for Europe considers the new situation “extremely worrying”, while he sees Europe as the focus of a new pandemic crisis. Epidemiologists fear that the fourth wave could reach Western Europe from Eastern Europe, as the number of people vaccinated there is still low and the rates of new infections are high.
The Netherlands: The positive example that collapsed
Although a month ago the Dutch government lifted all measures for the coronavirus, on Friday night the country’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte turned to the previous situation, due to the alarming increase in cases and hospital admissions. Thus, from Saturday, the use of the mask became mandatory again, while the entrance to museums, restaurants and workplaces is done with a mandatory demonstration of the certificate of vaccination, cure or negative test. The Dutch government is again calling on citizens to work from home and avoid public transport.
A worrying fact is that the number of infections is increasing, although the percentage of fully vaccinated is 84% of the population. So far, however, there has been no call for a third dose of vaccination. It is currently recommended for people with immunodeficiency.
Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria
The Czech Republic is currently being hit hard by the coronavirus, with cases rising sharply since late October. The populist Czech government has failed to impose strict protection measures since the first waves of the pandemic. Less than 60% of Czechs are fully vaccinated, a percentage that is considered satisfactory compared to other Eastern European countries.
Romania and Bulgaria are in the worst position in the fight against the coronavirus, however. In Romania, the vaccination rate is 37% – almost half of the European average. In fact, the National Vaccination Institute recently estimated that a Romanian dies from coronavirus every five minutes. Romania thus holds the negative lead among the EU countries that have been hit hardest. Experts are now comparing the situation in Bucharest with Italian Lombardy at the beginning of the pandemic.
At the same time, however, the country with the lowest vaccination rate in the EU is Bulgaria. According to statistics, only a quarter of citizens are fully vaccinated, with a strong mixture of mistrust, skepticism and superstition among those who refuse to be vaccinated.
France and Germany
The situation in France is also worrying, while President Macron is expected to deliver a speech on the pandemic on Tuesday. The demonstration of the “passport” against the coronavirus in all public places is expected to be extended until next year. France had even taken drastic measures, including compulsory vaccination for health workers and the police, since the autumn, raising the vaccination rate to 88% of the adult population. Doctors recommend speeding up the third dose of vaccination, which is currently only valid for people 65 and older.
“The fourth wave is here at full intensity,” German Health Minister Jens Spann said on Friday, pointing to those who have not yet been vaccinated. At the end of the week, the Robert Koch Institute recorded the highest daily increase in cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Experts describe the risk of infection in unvaccinated people as “very high”. Germany’s Achilles heel is the disproportionately low vaccination rate: Only 67% of adult Germans are fully vaccinated, far fewer than in countries such as Italy, France or Spain. Vaccination skepticism as well as resistance to central government action continue to be an obstacle.
DW / Barbara Wesel / Editor: Dimitra Kyranoudi