EUROPE: As we approach Easter, more countries across Europe plan for a third wave as vaccination rollout slows down.
According to data from the Our World in Data research team at Oxford University, COVID-19 rates have increased up to 60% across the EU, with 318 new cases confirmed per 100,000 people.
This comes after a brief period at the start of the year, where infection rates had slowed down.
Estonia has seen the steepest increase; since early February, the seven-day incidence rate has tripled to more than 1,100.
The incidence rate is also further escalating in countries in central and south-eastern Europe.
The Czech Republic, Montenegro and Hungary are among the worse, whilst figures in Germany have doubled in the past month.
From the start of the pandemic, Germany had experienced relatively low infection and death rates, which have only recently spiked.
However, there is hope for Europe as it is clear not everywhere is currently experiencing a third wave.
Despite neighbouring Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia have seen a recent decline in their incidence rate.
Britain and Spain are currently unaffected by the third wave. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson however, has warned the country yesterday that they should be “under no illusion” as we will begin to “feel effects” from the growth in cases across Europe.
Vaccination rollout across Europe
It appears there is no correlation between the course of illness, and the success of the vaccination rollout in each country.
Israel is leading in the vaccination rollout, whilst Britain has seen the fastest amount doses given. According to Our World in Data, as of March 19, 41.65 vaccines have been administered to people in the UK.
The UK’s vaccination rollout began two weeks prior that the rest of the UK; quicker vaccinations are also due to the UK ensuring more people have their first dose before administering the booster.
Under-60’s with no underlying health conditions are currently being vaccinated, whilst the government aims to have all adults receiving their first dose by July.
This comes after Boris Johnson released the roadmap out of lockdown, with 21 June being the final date where the country hopes to be in a position to “remove all legal limits on social contact,” according the government website.
Hungary carries second position in Europe for its successful vaccination program, where 20.65 doses have been administered per 100 people. This makes it higher than the European average of 12.92.
AstraZeneca controversy and shortage
Despite the success of the AstraZeneca vaccination rollout among many countries, Europe is beginning to develop a shortage whilst others are beginning to question its efficiency.
The British-Swedish vaccine was praised for being the most cost-effective and easy to store, however, recent issues saw the vaccine being suspended in many countries.
It was reported that many of those who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine experienced side effects such as fever and feeling generally unwell.
In mid-March, it was further reported that some had developed blood clots after being administered with their first shot. This led to the vaccination being halted in its rollout across many countries.
Germany, Italy and France had become the latest to stop the use of AstraZeneca, whilst Iceland, Ireland and Bulgaria had already suspended it. However, suspension was based on precautionary measures.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recently deemed the shot “safe and effective”, allowing many countries such as Germany to rebegin their use of the vaccine.
Spain will resume this week, whilst France it only administering the vaccine to over-55s, where there is a decreased thrombosis risk.
Even though there is some scepticism on whether we will be able to travel abroad this year, there has been some changes.
Germany has removed a number a holiday destinations of its high risk list, such as Mallorca, Algarve in Portugal and Istria, a Croatian island.
Despite these restrictions being lifted, the German Foreign Ministry has warned against unnecessary travel to high-risk European countries.
There are still many complications in place when choosing to travel abroad, including quarantine periods and having proof that you are not infected with COVID-19.
For example, Germany has an extremely rigorous protocol. For anyone entering Germany from a high-risk country, has to have a digital registration, according to guidelines that were put in place by the Health Ministry.
After this, there is a five-day quarantine period that has to begin within the first 48 hours of entering the country, and a negative test result to prove you are not carrying the virus.
Home quarantines can be lifted after 5-days at the earliest, as long as the test result is negative.
Many countries have enforced stricter rules, such as blanket bans on travel without urgent reason.
Negative tests are permitted almost everywhere if you intend to stay for longer than 48 hours, and in countries such as Switzerland, anyone entering from a high risk country must quarantine for 10 days immediately.