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Europe faces real threat of Covid -19 resurgence

file photo: people queue to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (covid 19) at the arena treptow vaccination centre in berlin
FILE PHOTO: People queue to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during a night of vaccinations with music, at the Arena Treptow vaccination centre in Berlin, Germany, August 9, 2021. John Macdougall/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

European countries must work harder to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further as deaths and new cases surge, the World Health Organization’s Europe head said on Thursday.

Current transmission rates in 53 European countries are of “grave concern” and new cases are nearing record levels, exacerbated by the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus, the WHO’s Hans Kluge told a media briefing.

“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” he said.

The region saw a 6% increase in new cases last week of nearly 1.8 million new cases, compared to the week before. The number of deaths rose 12% in the same period.

If the region follows its current trajectory, Kluge said, another 500,000 Covid-19 related deaths could occur in the region by February next year.

“Today every single country in Europe is facing a real threat of Covid-19 resurgence or already fighting it.”

Germany: Covid-19 cases hit daily record as health ministers meet

Germany reported 33,949 new Covid -19 infections, the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic last year, ahead of a two-day meeting of state health ministers starting on Thursday.

Countries across Europe have been reporting rises in coronavirus infections, prompting debate over whether to reintroduce restrictions and how to persuade more people to get vaccinated.

The daily number of cases was likely inflated by a public holiday in parts of Germany on Monday that led to a delay in data-gathering. The previous record was on Dec. 18, with 33,777 cases.

Helge Braun, chief of staff to acting Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that German states needed to make faster progress in giving older people booster shots.

“That should have happened long ago,” he told broadcaster ZDF on Thursday.

As of Wednesday, only 6.7% of people over 60 in Germany had received a booster shot, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Older people were also more likely to be hospitalised with Covid -19. The number of infected people in hospital stood at 3.62 per 100,000 on Wednesday – up from 1.65 in early October – but at 8.27 per 100,000 for those over 60.

England: Record Covid prevalence in October

Covid -19 prevalence in England rose to its highest level on record in October, Imperial College London said on Thursday, led by a high numbers of cases in children and a surge in the south-west of the country.

Nearly 6% of school-aged children had Covid -19, the researchers found, although there was a drop in prevalence towards the end of the study’s period coinciding with the closure of schools for half-term holiday.

Despite that dip, researchers said rates had doubled in older groups compared to September, a concerning sign as the government races to give booster shots to the most vulnerable.

“We did see a doubling in that group, and clearly that’s the worry,” Paul Elliott, the Imperial epidemiologist who leads the programme, told reporters.

“It’s being driven from the young school age but it is going right across the whole population.”

The Imperial REACT-1 study estimated overall prevalence at 1.72% based on swabs collected between Oct 19-29, compared to 0.83% in September.

Elliot said that the figure was higher than the study’s previously recorded high in January, though he noted that the study had not been in the field last December, when last winter’s wave might have peaked.

The Imperial study found there was nearly a four-fold increase in prevalence in the south-west, the area impacted by an error at a private lab that resulted in an estimated 43,000 people wrongly being given negative PCR test results.

France: More than 10,000 new cases for first time in two months

French health authorities reported 10,050 daily new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, the first time the tally has topped 10,000 since Sept 14.

In another sign the virus is ramping up again, hospitalisations for the disease are up by 84, at 6,764, a rise unseen since Sept 6.

The cumulative total of new cases now stands at 7.18 million.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care rose by 5 in 24 hours to 1,096 and by 58 over a week.

France also registered 35 new deaths from the epidemic, taking the total to 117,783.

Slovenia: The highest daily number of Covid cases recorded

Slovenia registered a record high 3,456 Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, or 44.7% of the number of people tested, the state health institute said, as medical experts suggest tighter restrictions to rein in the pandemic.

Currently there are 29,354 active COVID-19 cases in the small Alpine state of some two million people. There are 1.12 million fully vaccinated people, or 53% of the overall population.

Medical experts this week proposed tightening curbs on gatherings, including shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants and work from home for public sector employees, national television reported.

Czech Republic: Cases near 10,000, highest since March

The number of daily Covid -19 cases reported in the Czech Republic neared 10,000 for the first time since March, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.

The country recorded 9,902 new infections on Tuesday, up from 6,284 on the same day a week ago.

Hospitalisations reached more than 2,000 for the first time since May, including 288 people in intensive care.

The country like others in central Europe has seen a renewed jump in Covid-19 cases.

It is aiming to avoid the stress put on hospitals in previous stronger waves of the pandemic by boosting its vaccination rate, which is above others in the region but trails the European Union average.

As of Tuesday, 6.095 million people in the country of 10.7 million had been fully vaccinated.

The Netherlands: Dutch reintroduce face masks as cases surge

The Dutch government decided to re-impose measures, including the wearing of face masks, aimed at slowing the latest spike in infections, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

The use of a “corona pass”, showing proof of a vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test, would be broadened as of Nov. 6 to public places including museums, gyms and outdoor terraces, Rutte said.

Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have been rising for a month after most social distancing measures were scrapped in late September, and reached their highest level since July in the past week.

This has forced many hospitals to cut back on regular care again, to make room for urgent Covid-19 cases.

In a televised news conference, Rutte called on all Dutch, vaccinated and unvaccinated, to stick to basic hygiene rules and to stay at home if they had symptoms of a possible infection.

Face masks will be reintroduced in stores and other public places, while people are advised to work at home for at least half of the time.

The government next week could decide to broaden the use of the corona pass to the workplace, Rutte said.

Dutch health authorities on Tuesday recommended COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for older adults. Around 84% of the Dutch adult population has been vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, new infections were up nearly 40% week-on-week to more than 300 infections per 100,000 people, approaching peaks previously seen in July 2021, and in December and October 2020.

Ireland: Highest number of infections since January peak

Ireland reported the most Covid-19 cases since its January peak on Tuesday, as a surge gathered pace despite almost 90% of adults being vaccinated.

The National Public Health Emergency Team in a statement reported 3,726 cases, an increase of 70% on the same day last week.

The 14-day incidence stood at 695 cases per 100,000 people, up 18% on last week. Ireland has dropped most of its Covid-19 restrictions but has maintained a requirement for people to show vaccination certificates to enter bars and restaurants.

Slovakia: Covid-19 cases record higest daily tally

Slovakia reported 6,713 new Covid -19 cases as of Thursday morning, the highest daily tally since the pandemic hit last year, data from Health Ministry showed.
The country of 5.5 million has 1,890 patients hospitalised, including 327 in serious condition.
The ministry said that 79% of the hospitalised people were not vaccinated.

Poland: Cases top 15,000 for the first time since April

Poland reported 15,515 daily Covid -19 cases on Thursday, health ministry data showed on Thursday, the highest total since April.
There were 250 Covid -related deaths reported on Thursday. Poland, a country of around 38 million people, has reported 3,060,613 cases of the coronavirus and 77,395 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Austria: Cases surge as lockdown for vaccine holdouts looms

Austria’s daily new coronavirus infections surged on Thursday towards the record set a year ago, making a lockdown for the unvaccinated ever more likely as the government struggles to convince holdouts to get their shot.

Roughly 64% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That is in line with the European Union average but it is also among the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.

The number of new daily infections rose to 8,594 on Thursday, data from the interior and health ministries showed. That was a 32% increase from Wednesday and approaching the record of more than 9,000 set in November of last year, when the second of three nationwide lockdowns was ordered.

Having taken a hands-off approach to restrictions last summer, the conservative-led government has since outlined a plan under which the unvaccinated population will be placed under lockdown, with restrictions on their daily movements, once 600 intensive-care beds are filled with COVID-19 patients.

Under that incremental plan the unvaccinated, not including those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, will be barred from cafes and restaurants once 500 intensive-care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. The number of those beds currently in use is 352 and rising by more than 10 a day.

Of Austria’s nine provinces, Salzburg and Upper Austria accounted for 45% of Thursday’s new cases. Those two conservative-led provinces have by far the most infections relative to population. Upper Austria, a Freedom Party stronghold, has Austria’s lowest vaccination rate.

Belgium: Covid hospitalisations rise back to Oct 2020 levels

Belgium on Thursday reported a steep rise in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations back to levels last experienced in October 2020, three days after the United States advised its citizens against travelling to the country that hosts EU and NATO headquarters.
Data from Belgium’s Sciensano health institute showed 6,728 daily new cases on average in the last 14 days, up 36% from the previous week. An average of 164 patients with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals daily in the last seven days, a 31% increase, and 343 patients were in intensive care.
Belgium went into its second coronavirus lockdown in October 2020, a few days after recording similar hospitalisation numbers.
On Monday, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) added Belgium to its highest risk level, discouraging international travel there for those not fully vaccinated.
“Because of the current situation in Belgium, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” it said.
So far in the nearly two years of the pandemic, Belgium has had one of the world’s highest per capita mortality rates, mostly due to deaths in care homes in the first wave.

Romania: Covid -19 deaths at new record high

Romania reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, data showed, and there were no available intensive care beds across the European Union’s second-least vaccinated state.

New infections in the preceding 24 hours topped 11,000 but down from a peak seen in October, while 591 people died of the virus, preliminary official data showed.

The pandemic has killed 48,664 people in the country so far. Romania has fully vaccinated roughly 37% of its adult population and although daily inoculation numbers have risen in recent weeks, scepticism remains elevated because of distrust in state institutions and misinformation campaigns.

Ukraine: Total cases cross 3 million with new daily record

The total number of Covid -19 cases in Ukraine has exceeded 3 million with more than 70,000 deaths, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said it had registered a record daily high of 27,377 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, exceeding the previous high of 26,870 on Oct. 29.

Ministry data also showed 699 new coronavirus-related deaths.

Ukraine has registered record-high rates of new cases and deaths from the coronavirus in recent weeks, and the government has imposed strict lockdown restrictions to curb new infections.

Several thousand people blocked traffic in the centre of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Wednesday in a protest against coronavirus restrictions and mandatory vaccinations.

Vaccines have become mandatory for some state workers, and in “red” zone areas including Kyiv only vaccinated people or those with negative COVID test results are allowed into restaurants, gyms and on public transport.

Hungary: Jump in daily Covid infections to 6,268

Hungary reported a jump in daily Covid-19 infections to 6,268 on Thursday, with the daily tally more than doubling from the middle of last week in a country with hardly any restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has urged people to take up vaccines and last week announced mandatory vaccinations at state institutions, also empowering private companies to make vaccinations mandatory for employees if they believe that is necessary.

But the government has refrained from making mask wearing mandatory in closed spaces – apart from on public transport and in hospitals – and there are no other restrictions in place.

The Nepszava newspaper reported that the government required hospitals to open new COVID departments as the number of COVID-19 patients had jumped, to 3,366 on Thursday.

Government representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Hungary, a country of 10 million, has reported 31,101 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic but only 5.74 million of its people are fully vaccinated. More than 1.27 million people have received a booster shot.

Croatia & Slovenia: Highest number of daily infections recorded

Croatia reported on Thursday 6,310 infections of COVID-19 which is the highest daily number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic, the national health authorities said.

At the moment there are 25,628 active COVID-19 cases in a country of around 4 million people, while 1,680 patients require hospital treatment.

In Croatia a bit over 50% of population is fully vaccinated and experts largely blame such a low vaccination rate for the increase in infections in recent weeks.

In neighbouring Slovenia, the authorities also reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases, with 4,511 infections. Also in Slovenia just slightly over 50% of its 2 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated.

 

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