The burden of COVID on national health systems in Europe will be “very high” in December and January unless governments step up preventive measures, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warned Wednesday.
European governments should speed up vaccinations, revaccinate and re-introduce restrictions, ECDC director Andrea Ammon said in a statement. “And all three of these things must be done now,” she said. “It’s not a choice and a choice.”
According to the ECDC, about 66% of the entire population of the European Union has been fully vaccinated. This leaves “a large vaccination gap that cannot be closed quickly and provides ample room for the virus to spread,” Ammon said.
Recommended restrictions may include wearing masks, working from home, maintaining a safe distance, and reducing social interaction. Locking is similar to the “emergency brake,” Ammon said, “used when” you want to reduce a very large number of cases in a short period of time. “
She added: “I recognize that reaching this goal requires significant efforts on the part of public health authorities and society at large. But now is the time to go the extra mile. “
When asked if the seasonal holidays should be canceled, Ammon replied: “We still have time before Christmas. But if the situation does not improve, it may mean that these measures should be taken before Christmas. “
The ECDC also recommended that booster doses be “considered” for all adults, with priority given to those over 40. Italy on Tuesday allowed vaccinated people to be boosted five months after the second vaccine.
Europe has seen a sharp spike in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks, prompting governments to impose new restrictions, including isolation in Austria, one of the first in Western Europe since vaccines became available. German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned on Monday that by the end of this winter “almost everyone in Germany is likely to be vaccinated, recover or die.”
Europe accounted for more than half of the reported COVID deaths globally this month and more than 2 million new cases each week, the highest since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization said Tuesday that COVID is the leading cause of death in Europe and that the death toll from COVID in Europe is likely to surpass 2 million by next spring.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Europeans across the continent protested, sometimes violently, against vaccination demands and new restrictions.
There is a very large difference in vaccination rates between different European countries. Only 24% of the total population in Bulgaria was fully vaccinated, compared with 81% in Portugal. But since vaccinated people can also transmit the disease, the ECDC notes, it is important to impose restrictions even in countries with high vaccination rates.