Almost two years into the pandemic, Covid-19 infections are surging in Europe again. Several countries including Germany, the Netherlands, and Slovakia saw record-high numbers of daily infections this week while other countries such as Belgium, Ireland and France are also grappling with a new wave of cases.
The rise in infections has prompted new restrictions in several countries. Austria has become the first European country to make vaccination compulsory and has announced a full lockdown from 22 November. Belgium this week announced new measures, including a four-day homeworking rule. Germany, meanwhile, has also introduced tighter restrictions. Caretaker chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday warned that “the fourth wave is hitting our country with full force” as new infections reached a record of 68,366 in one day.
While vaccinations have broken the link between cases and deaths in many well-vaccinated European countries, deaths are at an all-time high in Eastern European countries including Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania where vaccine coverage has been low. Just a quarter of the population in Bulgaria is fully vaccinated.
Last week, Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe warned that all countries in Europe were facing “a real threat of Covid-19 resurgence or already fighting it”. He said that the continent once again was “the epicentre” of the pandemic.