As the European region enters its second winter pandemic season, governments again face a difficult choice – how to control the infection, save the lives of citizens and protect health systems, while avoiding austerity measures that affect economies and the mental health of the people, Radio Free Europe reports.
The World Health Organization reported that early in November, the coronavirus death rate rose by 10 percent in Europe, which is the only region in the world other than Central Asia where COVID-19 cases and mortality are on the rise. Why?
Almost two-thirds of global infections come from the European region. The death toll from COVID-19 has dropped by roughly four percent worldwide, while it is still rising in Europe and Central Asia alone.
Europe has seen a 50 per cent increase in infections since October, despite the high availability of vaccines for COVID-19.
Infections have increased significantly since the beginning of November – with 1.8 million cases and 24,000 deaths in the European region – that constitutes 59 percent of total infections worldwide and 48 percent of total deaths. Because of these figures and statistical forecasts, the WHO has declared Europe the “epicenter” of the pandemic.
Vaccination rates have dropped in recent months in Europe, but they also vary greatly from country to country. For example, by October, in Spain, almost 80 percent of the population was vaccinated, in Germany 66 percent and in Russia only 32 percent.
On average, only 47 percent of people are fully vaccinated. Eight states have exceeded 70 percent of vaccination coverage while in two states the rate is below 10 percent.
Where vaccination is low, hospitalizations are high, as is the case of Baltic states, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Balkans.
While more than 90 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated in Ireland, Malta and Portugal.
Due to the high number of hospitalizations and admissions of patients in intensive care units, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been marked as “very high concerns” by the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Union agency European located in Stockholm.
Vaccines are the most powerful tool in the fight against a pandemic if they are used in combination with other measures, which include wearing protective masks, testing, contact monitoring, maintaining physical distance and ventilating enclosed rooms.