Portugal, Germany, Greece… The Covid-19 plays the summer troubles in Europe

Here it is again inviting itself into our suitcases… In two weeks, the Covid-19 has seen its contaminations jump by 57% in Europe, compared to the two previous ones (i.e. 3.5 million new cases). The virus is galvanized by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, derivatives of Omicron identified as early as January in South Africa and Botswana.

It is useless to hope to see this new wave slowed down by summer temperatures: the last epidemic photos suffered by these countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, precisely took place during the austral summer.

Infographics. | WEST FRANCE

Also read. MAP. Covid-19: a rebound observed in France, what is the situation in other European countries?

It was also very mild in Portugal, from May 2022. Yet very well vaccinated (95% of the population received two doses and 76% three doses), the country was the first country in Europe to toast, with a peak of 70,000 new cases on Tuesday, June 7 (such a threshold had only been reached once since the start of the pandemic, in January). Since then, contamination has been declining, with 15,000 new cases on Wednesday. Portugal breathes.

Where does it get hot?

The outbreak is spectacular throughout Europe. Vertiginous, even, in Malta (+ 203%), in Albania (+ 167%), in the Netherlands (+ 162%) and in Luxembourg. Cases have also more than doubled in Switzerland (+140%), Austria (+126%), the United Kingdom (+117%), France (+118%). They are hardly less numerous in the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland… Everywhere, the cursed BA.5 becomes predominant.

Not so serious?

Optimists note that if the pandemic follows Portugal’s lead, the rest of Europe can expect an upturn in mid-July. And that there is for now no evidence that BA.4 and BA.5 are associated with accumulated severity of infection​, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which stresses, however, that it will still take a little time to confirm this lesser danger.

It has already been proven that this new episode does not cause a massive rush in hospitals (+ 24% in Belgium, + 12% in Greece, etc.). Nothing to do with the first waves. Except that behind the statistics hides another reality: while the holidays are coming, caregivers are sounding the alarm almost everywhere. Lack of staff, beds, means…

Emergency services are saturated in France. In Spain, it’s the storm​, summarized in El Pais Angela Hernandez, spokesperson for the Amyts doctors’ union. In Madrid, the number of emergency rooms has increased by half, as secondary care centers have closed. Same hell in Greece, while wealthy tourists. The country still only has 1,000 beds in intensified care. For lack of carers, the new hospital in Thessaloniki (100 beds) remains closed; in that of Rhodes, one post out of two is vacant.

There are still black spots…

Bad times for elders and people at risk, as the mask and most protective measures have evaporated. Because if they seemed less severe, these new variants proliferate at high speed.

Epidemiological data show that BA.5 would be 10% more contagious than BA.2 who had raged at the start of the year, met on guard Olivier Schwartz, director of the Virus and Immunity unit at the Institut Pasteur.

Also read. The effects of the long Covid better understand

Inevitably, the multiplication of cases will increase the number of severe forms, hospitalizations and even deaths… The Covid killed 2,981 people in Europe in one week. The most bereaved countries: Germany (461 deaths), the United Kingdom (374), Spain (365), Italy (339), France (281)…

Our immunity at half mast?

Europe, globally well vaccinated, is entering a phase of immune decline​, alerted epidemiologist Mircea T. Sofonea, from the University of Montpellier on Wednesday:The protection conferred by a dose or an infection decreases with time.

Also read. Covid19. Will we all have to get vaccinated again at the start of the school year?

Hence the urgency to vaccinate the most vulnerable. Of the 8.7 million French people eligible for the fourth dose (over 60s and people with comorbidities), only one in four has already received it. Same palpable weariness in Germany, Portugal and Belgium where the authorities have not yet announced the opening of this fourth dose to the entire population. The Spaniards already know that they will be entitled to it this fall. Precursors, Sweden and Finland will then offer a fifth dose to their elderly and at-risk populations.

As for former patients who think they are protected, be careful… According to several studies, people infected with Omicron at the start of the year have less developed immune defenses against BA.4 and BA.5. They would be 7.5 times less protected than with a vaccine. These data have yet to be proven, but the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control also finds that these variants demonstrate “ an ability to avoid immune protection​”.

Does summer promise to be hidden?

The lifting of the restrictions, in the spring, makes the happiness… of the Covid. Without imposing it, the Portuguese authorities have highly recommended to put the mask back on, from May, at work, in closed places and large outdoor gatherings. It has also remained in use in all healthcare centers in Europe. And in public transport in Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany…

No country, on the other hand, has announced its intention to reinstate other measures, such as confinement or curfew. Nor are any restrictions on movement applied, for the moment, between the States of the European Union. But the EU’s Covid certificate (three doses of vaccine for adults – two for 12-18 year olds – or a negative test) has just been extended and remains in effect until June 30, 2023.

It is up to each country to demand it, or not: Italy gave up on it at the beginning of June, but could quickly change its mind. To avoid disappointments, consult the website of the French embassy of the country of destination before any departure.

Portugal, Germany, Greece … The Covid-19 plays the summer troubles in Europe

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