Europe is again experiencing an upsurge of new coronavirus cases as various nations report record-high infection rates leading to full and partial lockdowns.
In early November this year, 59% of the world’s newly reported coronavirus cases, including nearly half of the world’s COVID-related deaths, were from Europe.
Accordingly, the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report published in November suggests that new coronavirus cases worldwide were on a decline except in Europe and Africa that were up 7% and 3% consecutively.
As of November 7, European countries have recorded over 249 million confirmed cases and over 5 million deaths. WHO Regional Director of Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, also warned that the continent could expect 500,000 COVID-related death tolls this winter should this trend continue without urgent action being taken.
But why is Europe battling a new wave of coronavirus infections and again “at the epicenter” of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Kluge has named some of the factors behind the spread of the virus:
The surge in infections is driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, affecting all age groups but deadliest among older people. Many hospitals are currently filled with COVID-19 patients and will likely face extreme stress in the following months, as WHO projected.
Insufficient Vaccine Coverage
Despite the coordinated mass vaccine rollout, many people in Europe have yet to be fully inoculated against the virus. Only countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Belgium have approximately 70% fully vaccinated individuals in their total population.
However, Belgium remains one of the countries with the highest active coronavirus cases, proving that such figures do not provide solid immunity against the Delta variant.
In European countries, teenagers and children are among the unvaccinated population at high risk of acquiring the virus. Governments need to provide relative protection by ensuring over 95% of their people are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Moreover, many are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which impedes beating the virus.
Evidence of COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity
Waning immunity among the inoculated population is considered one of the factors in the new wave. A recent study showed a clear relationship between antibody levels and breakthrough infections.
As such, governments used booster shots (third shot of COVID-19 vaccine) to restore the high effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines. Unfortunately, despite the adoption of boosters, it has been prolonged, specifically in the highest-risk groups such as age 60 plus.
Relaxation of Public Health Measures
Dr. Kluge has called for the strict implementation of mitigation measures, particularly mask-wearing and social distancing, as too few people have been vaccinated to help fight the rise of new cases.
Countries like Denmark and Norway have relaxed safety protocols by completely reopening and have seen the resurgence of cases ever since. Preventing further transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant means vaccinations are not sufficient for solid protection.
Combining high-level vaccination and responsibly using masks, and following other safety measures can help impede the outbreak.
The Importance of COVID-19 Testing During Outbreaks
During COVID-19 surges, access to rapid antigen tests is just as essential as mask-wearing, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and more. With a coronavirus test, people can identify individuals with active COVID-19 infection and isolate them immediately.
It can prevent further spread by someone with symptoms and those who appear healthy but with active coronavirus infection.
Are you looking for a testing provider?
Harley Medic Global is a government-approved testing provider and an expert in COVID-19 testing. They have many locations across the UK, ensuring that a testing centre is near you. Getting a test is as easy as booking online and finding their closest clinic. Visit their website harleymedic.co.uk to learn more.