Europe faces surge in new Covid-19 cases, leading to more deaths
Multiple European countries are experiencing a significant surge in new Covid-19 infections, as experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer leading to more deaths.
According to the Our World in Data scientific aggregator, the rolling seven-day average of confirmed new cases per million inhabitants is on the rise in countries including Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Portugal has experienced the most dramatic wave, with infections per million remaining at a seven-day average of 2,043 on Monday – the second highest new case rate in the world, although down somewhat from an early June high of 2,878.
In France, the corresponding figure has soared from 224 on 13 June to 920 in the space of a week. “The pandemic is accelerating again, despite the warm weather,” Dr Benjamin Davido, an infectious diseases specialist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital outside Paris, said.
“The new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are 10% to 15% more infectious and it’s this that is giving the virus an added kick,” Davido told French radio, adding that in the medium term the situation could become “very tough” in the country’s hospitals.
“We are in a very particular situation in which it is vital that we maintain stable immunity through booster shots.” Hospitals could fill up over the summer, he said, unless vulnerable people and those over 60 get a fourth dose as soon as possible.
Health expert Dr Damien Mascret told France 2 television that the BA.4 and BA.5 variants had led to significant excess deaths in Portugal, adding that hospital admissions in France were up 27% and intensive care admissions 17% in a week.
“The holiday season is about to start, almost all restrictions have been relaxed, things could take off again very fast indeed,” he said. “It’s concerning that only 29% of over-60s have so far got the fourth dose to which they are all entitled.”
The seven-day average infection rate per million is lower in Germany, reaching 715 on Monday, but has been climbing steadily since the first week of June when it stood at 324. The federal health minister, Karl Lauterbach, has spoken of a “summer wave” of new cases.
“This has unfortunately become a fact,” Lauterbach told the Rheinische Post newspaper last week, adding on Twitter that vulnerable people should get a fourth shot of the vaccine and suggesting masks were a good idea in enclosed spaces.
Germany’s BÄK medical association recently urged the government to prepare for an autumn and winter Covid onslaught, calling for extra planning to ensure schools stayed open, vulnerable people were protected and hospitals operated normally.