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Experts Say Europe’s COVID Surge is a Warning for the U.S.

Experts Say Europe’s COVID Surge is a Warning for the U.S.

COVID vaccine distirbution

As Europe finds itself at the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic once again, experts say it should serve as a warning to the U.S. and other countries about the virus’ unremitting nature. Countries across the continent have seen cases soar. October saw a rise of more than 50 percent, and the worrying trend has continued this month as winter begins to bite.

The Biden administration recently lifted travel restrictions for people coming from Europe, but health experts warn that may have been a premature decision.

Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Despite the surge, daily death rates in all three countries have remained relatively stable compared with past spikes, and experts have credited high vaccine uptake for weakening the link between the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths. Dr. Hans Kluge, the director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe region, on Nov. 4 warned the region was “back at the epicenter of the pandemic,” and his words proved prescient. On Friday, the WHO said nearly 2 million cases were reported across Europe in the week prior — the most the region has seen in a single week since the pandemic began.

In recent weeks, Germany reported record daily numbers of new infections with more than 50,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The Netherlands also reported more than 16,000 cases — the country’s highest number since the pandemic began, prompting the government to begin a partial lockdown on Saturday which is set to last at least three weeks. And as cases surged towards the end of last month, Belgium reimposed some Covid restrictions, including a requirement for masks in public places. The country’s Covid-19 pass also has to be shown to enter bars, restaurants, and fitness clubs. The passport shows you are either fully vaccinated, have had a recent negative test, or have recently recovered from the disease. The country still recorded more than 15,000 daily cases on Monday.

The situation is still far direr in Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Romania, and Latvia where vaccination rates are among the lowest globally. While vaccines are readily available, mistrust of the medical community is at an all-time high. The WHO’s latest data showed less than 23 percent of the adult population in Bulgaria had been fully vaccinated, while just over 25 percent had received at least one shot. In Romania, just under 34 percent of the population above age 18 had been fully vaccinated, while almost 38 percent had received at least one dose.

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said the high death rates should be “a warning” for other nations with low vaccination rates. While he said he believed the most effective approach is a multi-pronged one, including coronavirus measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, he said vaccines and booster jabs are critical for preventing the spread of Covid-19.

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