Europe In Jitters Over COVID Rise: Restrictions Trigger Protests
The case count of the region has been rising steadily since the last weeks September, The WHO Covid Dashboard shows that after the first weekly surge on July 21, the rate of new cases had reached its peak on August 23rd before it began a gradual decline of -2.24%, -3.08%, -2.32%, and -0.07% in its weekly average until September 20th.This is the point form when the cases began rising again and have been going up ever since.
The weekly increase in COVID cases also spiked from 65,150 recorded on September 27th to 154,166 in October 11th, and is currently at 238,408 as on November 15th. [View here]. The chart below compares the weekly change in COVID cases in Europe to the global situation in the months of October and November: WHO Expresses Concern Over COVID Situation In Europe WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, has expressed that he is “very worried” about the ongoing coronavirus situation in Europe. He said that “Covid-19 has become once again the number one cause of mortality in our region” while speaking to the BBC. The Delta variant of the COVID -19 virus is posing challenges in Europe despite its high vaccination rate relative to many other parts of the world. The chart below shows that the rates of vaccination in countries like France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal are above 60%. Spain is the exception in the Western European region with 15.05% rate of full vaccination. Eastern Europe has relatively low rates of vaccination. For example, the rates of full vaccination in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Romania are respectively 21.96%, 23.36%, and 35.52%. Serbia shows the highest rates of full vaccination in the region with 44% full vaccination according to the WHO vaccine dashboard. EU Maintains That Vaccines Are Best Way Despite Efficacy Questions A study by Researchers at the University of Oxford, UK, and the country’s Office for National Statistics found that Pfizer–BioNTech and Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 do protect against the infectious and virulent Delta strain but their protective effect fades over time, as reported by Nature. Although these wo vaccines had 92% effectiveness in preventing people from developing a high viral load, their effectiveness reduced to 90%, 85% and 78% after 30, 60 and 90 days, respectively. As of now, the European Commission has said that the link between fading efficacy of the virus and the Delta variant is yet to be conclusively known. Its official website quotes Dr Zoi-Dorothea Pana of the European University in Cyprus: “Currently, it is difficult to ascertain whether a decrease in [vaccine] effectiveness against the Delta variant infections is mainly due to waning immunity over time or due to the strain partially escaping the vaccine”. However, vaccinations are still overwhelmingly successful in preventing deterioration, hospitalizations and deaths. The website states: “For those who have been vaccinated, the risk of hospitalisation or experiencing more than five symptoms in the first week of illness is reduced”. COVID Measures Trigger Protests, Some Violent Incidents Seen Many countries in the region are resorting to immediate measures to curb the spread. Austria has announced a “jab or jail” law effective from February 2022 which legally mandates getting COVID vaccines. It has imposed a total lockdown despite significant protests that were marred by violence. Austria announced a total lockdown, the country’s 4th, for 10 days starting Monday. Thousands of people had gathered in the capital Vienna to protests the lockdown, and the proposal for legally mandated vaccinations, a first in the EU. The sentiment was also against other COVID-related restrictions such a proof of vaccination for entry into public spaces. Austria’s vaccination rate is 64% which is below the EU average, and the government has thus been forced to resort to mandatory vaccination. Certain far-right wing groups and individuals were also part of these protests with rhetoric of “control your borders not your citizens”. In Rotterdam, Netherlands, there were similar reports of violence as youth protestors were accused of lobbing fireworks at police, and there were even reports of live rounds being fired at protestors for the safety of officers. More on the anti-lockdown protests in the video below:
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