Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, the number of Covid-19 cases in Europe is on the rise again. Several countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia, have reported record 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 brought about new restrictions in several countries. Austria became the first European country make vaccination mandatory and announced complete isolation from 22 November. Belgium this week announced new measures, including a four-day work-from-home schedule. Meanwhile, Germany has also imposed tighter restrictions. Interim Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Wednesday that “the fourth wave is hitting our country in full force,” as the number of new infections reached a record of 68,366 in one day.
While vaccinations have cut the link between cases and deaths in many well-vaccinated European countries, mortality is at an all-time high in Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania, where vaccination coverage has been low. Only a quarter of the Bulgarian population is fully vaccinated.
Last week, Hans Kluge, WHO’s director for Europe, warned that all countries in Europe are facing “the real threat of a Covid-19 resurgence, or are already fighting it.” He said the continent was once again the “epicenter” of a pandemic.