Despite anti-restriction movements, Europe must “urgently” take action against the new wave of Covid-19, an EU agency said on Wednesday, the day after a WHO warning on the risk of a new massacre this winter.
With more than 2.5 million cases and nearly 30,000 deaths recorded in the past week, the Old Continent is by far the region of the world most affected by the pandemic, according to official data collected by AFP. And the trend remains on the rise, especially in countries with the lowest vaccination rates.
On Tuesday, WHO Europe was alarmed by the “grip” of Covid-19 in Europe, which could cause 700,000 additional deaths on the continent by the spring, in addition to the 1.5 million deaths already counted.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the EU health agency responsible for epidemics, on Wednesday called for filling the gaps in vaccination, but also for taking “non-pharmaceutical measures” , a generic term for anti-Covid restrictions.
Despite the protections of vaccination, several European countries have already had to return to significant restrictions, after several months of relaxation.
Europe faces “a risk of a very high burden” in December and January “if public health measures are not applied urgently”, warned the ECDC, whose opinions are advisory.
The general level of vaccination in the EU, still below 70% of the total population, “leaves a wide vaccination gap which cannot be filled quickly and gives a large space for the virus to spread,” the agency said.
– Vaccine deviations –
In the European Union, 67.7% of the population has received two doses of the vaccine but the differences are staggering between countries. According to figures from Tuesday, only 24.2% of Bulgarians are vaccinated against 86.7% of Portuguese.
“We urgently need to focus on bridging this immunity gap, offering + booster + doses to all adults and reintroducing non-pharmaceutical measures,” said ECDC director Andrea Ammon.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has taken up the ECDC’s recommendation of a booster dose of anti-Covid vaccine for all over 18 years old, with priority for those over 40 years old.
“We must increase vaccinations to control the pandemic,” admitted the head of the European executive.
Sweden announced Wednesday morning to offer a third dose to all adults.
France is preparing to announce new measures on Thursday, including “the acceleration” of vaccination, the “strengthening of the health pass” and “the strengthening of barrier measures” such as the wearing of masks.
According to the WHO, the increase in Europe is explained by the combination of the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant, insufficient vaccination coverage and the relaxation of anti-Covid measures.
If the increase in cases concerns almost the entire continent, the countries of Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia have the heaviest results, due in particular to lower vaccine coverage.
In Russia, famous doctors on Wednesday invited celebrities and politicians opposed to vaccines to visit hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, in order to see the effects of the disease with their own eyes.
“We’re all a little busy right now and you can guess why,” they write in a letter to anti-vaccine.
Germany, among the most affected countries currently in the EU, decided on Wednesday to extend aid to businesses until April 2022, the outgoing government said.
Against a background of general weariness of the populations, the fight against the pandemic must face the awakening of anti-restriction movements which have manifested themselves in recent days in Austria or the Netherlands, sometimes violently.
In the French West Indies, new violence in Martiniques during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday left nine wounded among the police, on the sidelines of a strike movement and protest against the vaccine obligation and the suspensions of caregivers, but also on the cost of living.