Fifth COVID-19 surge tests European countries

Fish market in France, mask wearing
Fish market in France, mask wearing

International Monetary Fund, Cyril Marcilhacy / Flickr cc

As more European countries battle new COVID-19 surges, health officials are debating whether to reimpose strong restrictions, including in the Netherlands, where advisors have recommended a new 2-week lockdown.

Some nations eye modified lockdowns

The pandemic challenge for different countries is a diverse mix, with many in the eastern region, such as Russia, struggling with low uptake in the initial immunization rollout. However, others with high vaccine uptake such as the United Kingdom have also felt the pressure and are taking more steps to offer booster shots.

In the Netherlands, government outbreak advisers have suggested a 2-week lockdown that would cancel events and close theaters, but allow schools to remain open, according to the NL Times. The country's daily cases are at their highest level of the year, and earlier this week, a hospital group in the south warned that they were running out of space and staff and urged officials to take a stronger stance.

Government groups are meeting today and may announce new measures tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Austria—also experiencing record highs—is on the verge of a lockdown, but only for those who aren't fully vaccinated, according to Reuters. According to a government plan finalized in September, unvaccinated people would be placed under lockdown once 30% of intensive care unit beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Currently, the level is at 20% and rising steadily.

France's health minister yesterday acknowledged that the country is at the start of its fifth wave, and earlier this week, the country's president announced a booster shot campaign for those ages 50 to 65 and that those ages 65 and older must get their booster shots to maintain their health pass, which is required for entry to restaurants, events, and local rail travel.

Last week, the UK announced steps to speed up the booking of booster shots for those older than 50 and others in vulnerable groups.

More global headlines

  • In Africa, COVID-19 deaths are significantly higher in people who have diabetes, according to a preliminary analysis from the World Health Organization African regional office. At a briefing today, officials said the fatality rate for those with the condition is 10.2% compared to 2.5% for those without. Diabetes levels in Africa are increasing sharply and are expected to rise 134% by 2045 compared to 2021. Currently, only 6.6% of the population is fully vaccinated, well below the 40% global average.

  • Officials in China's capital city of Beijing have placed restriction on conferences and events, after six more local cases were detected, including some in people who had recently been at conferences there, according to Reuters. The country is among the few in the world with a "zero COVID" policy, and Beijing is preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in February.

  • Israel's government today conducted a drill to test the country's capacity to battle a more lethal COVID-19 variant. In a statement, health officials said Israel is in a good position and is anticipating the end of Delta activity but that it is looking ahead to prepare for any scenario.

  • The global total today rose to 251,797,190 cases, and 5,077,902 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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