Europe Reemerges as COVID-19 Epicenter, Sparking Lockdowns
Europe accounts for more than half of the average seven-day COVID-19 infections globally and about half of the latest deaths, according to Reuters—the highest levels in the region since April 2020, when the virus peaked in Italy. In response, governments in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, and The Netherlands are planning measures to curb rising cases.
While approximately 65 percent of the population of the European Economic Area—including the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway—have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the pace has slowed in recent months, and hesitancy in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia has hampered rollout and increased risks of outbreaks.
Europe posted a weekly 7 percent increase in deaths and a 10 percent increase in cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the only region in the world where cases and deaths are steadily increasing, The Guardian reported.
Why is Europe returning to the dark days of Covid? https://t.co/Op7wBWFE4t— The Guardian (@guardian) November 13, 2021
“The message has always been: do it all,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe. “Vaccines are doing what was promised: preventing severe forms of the disease, and especially mortality. But they are our most powerful asset only if used alongside preventive measures.”
The Austrian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people, prohibiting anyone aged 12 or older who is unvaccinated from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as work, grocery shopping, exercise, or getting vaccinated, the Associated Press reported. The lockdown affects around 2 million people in the country of 8.9 million, and it does not apply to children under 12 years of age.
Austrian police have been ordered to stop and check individuals on the streets to enforce a lockdown on people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine https://t.co/uSMTN2VH7v— Bloomberg (@business) November 15, 2021
The measure will initially last for 10 days, and police will check that people outside their homes are vaccinated. Unvaccinated people violating the lockdown for unnecessary activities can be fined up to 1,450 euros ($1,660).
The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic reported a fresh surge in coronavirus infections and had to start limiting non-urgent hospital care in order to manage the influx of COVID-19 patients. More than 14,000 cases were reported in the country on 9 November—not far off from its all-time peak in January 2021, Reuters reported.
The outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has rejected lockdowns, relying instead on vaccination efforts. Approximately 58 percent of the Czech population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The seven-day COVID incidence rate hit record highs in Germany last week, as the number of people per 100,000 infected rose to 277.4 overall, and upwards of 500 in some regions.
Three German state health ministers urged the country’s political parties to form a new government promptly so that they can prolong individual states’ authority to impose stricter pandemic measures, including lockdowns and school closures, according to Reuters. Currently, the state of emergency that allows states to implement such measures expires on 25 November.
The Netherlands is expected to go back into partial lockdown amid soaring COVID-19 cases. Work-from-home polices and restrictions on sporting events are likely to be introduced https://t.co/DDfvbyce0W pic.twitter.com/RZUoa2UeJO— Reuters (@Reuters) November 12, 2021
Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a three-week partial lockdown, dubbed a “lockdown lite,” to limit social contact in response to a sharp rise in infections. A record 16,324 new cases were recorded in one day in early November, the BBC reported. Under the lockdown, day-to-day life will remain largely unchanged—bars, cafes, and restaurants can continue serving from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; sports matches can proceed but without spectators; and coronavirus entry passes and assigned seats are mandatory in food and drink venues. There is, however, a mandatory closing time for restaurants to limit the potential for crowded bars, and house parties are discouraged.
Multiple Dutch towns have already canceled holiday parades.
Russia continues to break its COVID-19 case records on a weekly basis. The total number of coronavirus infections in the country since the start of the pandemic has reached 9 million, and a record 1,241 people died from COVID-19 in a single day last week.
In early November, Russia imposed a “non-working” week, closing many businesses to attempt to curb the virus, and two new bills have been introduced in parliament—restricting access to many public places and domestic and international trains and flights to people who have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or are medically exempt from vaccination, the AP reported.
Fewer than 40 percent of Russians have been fully vaccinated. A coronavirus task force reported more than 254,000 deaths—the highest death toll in Europe—although some experts believe that the tally is too low. The task force only measures deaths for which COVID-19 was the main cause, using data from medical facilities. According to reports from Russia’s statistical service, Rosstat, it’s more likely that the tally is in the 462,000-person range.