BRUSSELS/PRAGUE (Reuters) The spread of Coronavirus set records on Wednesday across parts of Europe which is, again, the epicentre of a pandemic which has prompted new restrictions on movement and has made health experts think again about booster shots to protect against.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary all reported new highs for daily infections during winter. This is due to the fact that people gather inside to celebrate Christmas, which is a a perfect breeding ground of COVID-19.
The disease has swept the globe in the two years since it was first identified in central China with more than 258 million people and killing 5.4 million.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control The public health agency of the EU, recommended vaccine boosters for everyone, with a particular focus for people over 40. This is a significant change in policy.
“Available evidence emerging from Israel and the UK indicates an impressive increase in protection against severe illness and infection following a booster dose in all age groups in the short term,” the ECDC said in a paper published on Wednesday.
Many EU countries have begun to give booster doses to their citizens, however they have different criteria to determine priority and the interval between boosters and first shots.
ECDC director Andrea Ammon said boosters would increase protection against infection caused by declining immunity and “could potentially reduce the transmission in the population, thereby preventing further hospitalisations and deaths”.
She advised countries that have low levels of vaccination to speed up their rollouts and warned of the risk of a rise in hospitalisations and deaths across Europe in the months of December and January if the recommended measures are not introduced.
According to the government and health officials, Sweden will gradually roll out boosters to all adults. Booster shots of mRNA vaccine have been offered to people who are 65 or above with the intention of eventually extending the shots to other groups.
“We are faced with an uncertain winter,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren spoke at a press conference. “You can aid by staying at home in case you are sick, or getting vaccinated if necessary. Get your booster every time you are offered it.”
As opposed to many of its neighbours, Sweden has not been affected by a new epidemic of infection and hospitalisations are still low, however there have been scattered signs the pandemic is gaining pace.
Just prior to a meeting of the government which is likely to come up with a solution to a temporary shutdown to stop the fastest-growing diseases, Slovakia reported its highest daily increase in cases on Wednesday.
The neighboring country of Austria has already shut down its citizens this week for at least 10 days, becoming the first country to reimpose such restrictions. It also requires the entire population to be vaccinated from Feb. 1st, which is a source of anger for many in a nation where distrust of government mandates affecting individual freedoms runs high.
The Czech Republic saw its highest daily increase in infections. Infections reached 25,000 for the first-time which is putting extra strain on hospitals. The government is planning to institute mandatory vaccines for older people and certain professions, like healthcare workers.
Hungary reported a record number of 12,637 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 1.045 million, with 33,519 deaths.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, who opposes further lockdowns due to fear of stifling the economy, launched a vaccination campaign this week, providing shots without prior registration.
Hungarians are also concerned about the idea of mandatory vaccinations.
“Making the vaccine mandatory is a risky decision because it could severely limit people in terms of making a living, so I think that such a choice must be taken with care,” said Zsuzsanna Koszoru as she lined up for an additional shot.
France will unveil new COVID strategies to limit the spread of COVID on Thursday as the nation’s infection rate increases. Gabriel Attal, a spokesperson for the French government, said that it doesn’t want to impose restrictions on public life , and would rather strengthen social distancing rules while increasing the speed of its booster campaign.
It is expected that Italy will limit access to indoor spaces for those who haven’t been vaccinated. The Dutch government will announce new measures on Friday.
Many German regions have been imposing stricter rules amid the country’s most severe COVID outbreak to date. This comes as Angela Merkel’s era is drawing to a close. They have also mandated that people who have been vaccinated pass an absence of a positive test to be permitted to attend indoor events.
Jens Spahn, the incoming Health Minister, stated Monday that the majority of people in Germany at the end of winter would be “vaccinated or recovered, or dead”.
Content Source: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/963599?src=rss