Europe's COVID-19 surge prompts stronger measures

With many European countries battling COVID-19 levels that are near or above record daily highs, more nations took strict steps, such as Austria, where two states ordered lockdowns.

Though vaccine rollout is strong and making a difference on severe outcomes in a number of Europe's countries, the highly transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant is finding pockets of unprotected people and putting new pressure on health systems.

Officials eye including the vaccinated in new steps

Austria last week announced a lockdown for unvaccinated people, but as cases climb to new record levels, two hard-hit states—Upper Austria and Salzburg—announced lockdowns to include vaccinated people starting next week, according to the New York Times.

The country reported 15,509 cases today, about 40% of them from Upper Austria and Salzburg, which are on the border with Germany.

Meanwhile, pressure is building in Austria for the government to order a broader lockdown for the whole country as its caseload threatens to overrun hospitals.

In Germany, officials in Saxony state—with the country's highest infection rate and its lowest vaccine uptake—are considering a partial lockdown, according to Reuters. The country's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel at a briefing today said the government will order restrictions on unprotected people in areas where hospitals are struggling.

Germany is in the midst of forming a coalition government, and incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned that to get through the winter, the country will see drastic measures that haven't been taken before.

In related developments, the Czech Republic and Slovakia today finalized restrictions on people who haven't been vaccinated, unless they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 6 months. And yesterday, Sweden's government signaled that it would introduce a COVID-19 vaccine pass for use at indoor events of more than 100 people, based on the advice of health officials.

More global headlines

  • Alongside Austria, at least two other European countries today reported record daily high cases: the Netherlands and Germany.

  • In the United Kingdom, school-age kids currently have the highest infection rates, but those ages 12 to 17 who had received a single vaccine dose had a 56% lower level of infections compared to their unvaccinated peers, according to an ongoing COVID-19 testing study from Imperial College London. The group reported that overall infections in the country have fallen a bit, but are still very high. They also found that nearly 12% had the Delta subvariant AY.2.4, identified as a variant of interest, but those who had it were less likely to report symptoms than those infected with the main Delta strain.

  • South Korea reported a daily record high today, with 3,292 new cases, according to the Korea Herald. The rise follows the lifting of restrictions nearly 3 weeks ago. The health ministry said about 80% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied in Seoul, and officials this week will discuss ways to expand surge capacity.

  • The global total today rose to 255,466,406 cases, along with 5,129,999 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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