A new wave of COVID-19 is sweeping Europe at a time when the cumulative number of confirmed cases globally has exceeded 200 million. On the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest map of the outbreak, half of the EU and the European Economic Area are already covered in orange, red and deep red, which represent the severity of the outbreak.
According to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the combined positive rate of COVID-19 in the European Union and the European Economic Area was 2.9% at the end of July, up 0.2% from the previous week. By the 30th week of this year, a total of 3,4919,952 cases had been confirmed in the EU and the European Economic Area, with a total of 745,014 deaths.
Matteo Bassetti, director of the Infectious diseases Department at SAN Martino Hospital in Genoa, Italy, told Xinhua, “We had expected the infection summit to occur between August and September when people returned from vacation and school started again, but we didn’t expect to see such an outbreak in July.”
Rush to unseal tourism
As the epidemic improved in June, some countries eased their control. Cyprus allowed some entertainment and catering industries to resume business, Spain lifted the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors, and the UK even lifted the requirement of wearing masks indoors in public places.
Governments are lifting the ban, but health experts have been warning. More than 1,200 scientists signed an open letter in the Lancet, saying the government’s decision to implement the final phase of unblocking in England was “dangerous and reckless”.
Quarantine or economic recovery? This is a problem that has been plaguing European countries since the outbreak began.
This round of outbreak has a significant regional characteristics. The Iberian Peninsula, southern France and Mediterranean islands, all traditional Summer vacation destinations in Europe, were the first to relax controls and are the most severely affected areas.
Malta, for example, has a population of less than half a million and relies heavily on tourism. In order to save the tourism industry, the country lifted the prevention and control measures on June 1, and the number of inbound tourists has gradually increased. Since mid-July, the outbreak has rebounded significantly, with the number of cases rising from single digits to triple digits at one point, and both the European Union and the United States have advised people to travel to the country with caution in the near future.
Young people resist psychological interference with epidemic prevention
As the majority of COVID-19 deaths have been among the elderly, some young people have taken it lightly, often ignoring rules on wearing masks, social distancing and resisting vaccination. There are indications that the new outbreak is partly related to the fact that some young people do not comply with regulations and do not get vaccinated. In Cyprus, entertainment and restaurants resumed in early June, attracting young people and causing the outbreak to rebound in late June and get out of control in July. According to the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare, frequent gatherings of young people lead to clusters of infections, with the majority of new infections in Finland occurring between the ages of 20 and 29.
In response to the public’s resistance, especially among young people, to the measures, the Finnish government has hired psychologists and marketing experts to participate in decision-making, and research is ongoing. In Cyprus, plans to extend the vaccine to those aged 16 and over were met with few bookings and protests against mandatory vaccination in late July.
Tens of thousands of people have protested France’s announcement that from August it will expand the use of “health passes” to cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, planes, trains and coaches, only those who have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from COVID-19.
Vaccination remains key
Recent cases of “breakthrough infections” have raised concerns about the protective effectiveness of vaccines. Greece’s Minister of Development and Investment, Azonis Georgiadis, says he has finished vaccinating and is still infected with the Novel coronavirus. A 70-year-old man in Greece became infected after receiving two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and was transferred to intensive care.
Regarding whether the vaccine lost its effectiveness against the mutated virus, Ikas Mayokness and Sanos Timopoulos, professors at the University of Athens Medical School, said no vaccine would provide 100 percent protection for everyone, but the risk of viral infection would be greatly reduced after vaccination. Without vaccination, the number of cases would have been at least three times higher.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed that vaccination is the key to controlling the outbreak. This would not only protect more people from infection, but also reduce severe illness and mortality and prevent health systems from being overloaded in a new wave of outbreaks. France, Italy, Greece and other countries have all announced mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and nursing home workers.
As the Delta strain is highly contagious, it is necessary to maintain quarantine measures while stepping up vaccination. The European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint report on Thursday, calling on all eligible citizens to be fully vaccinated as soon as possible. “As long as novel Coronavirus is circulating, everyone should follow the rules and continue to take precautions, including wearing masks and social distancing, even for those who have been fully vaccinated,” the report said.