For months, it seemed that the Coronavirus pandemic in Europe was under control, but a new round of infections has caused cases to surge across the continent. The reason for the new outbreaks may be similar to the cause of the summer surge in the US: a breakdown in social distancing among young people.
The new viral surge is affecting popular vacation spots such as Spain, Germany, Greece, France, and Italy. Many European nations had reopened after the initial wave of infections in the spring had died down.
CNN reports that, as in the US, the initial wave of COVID-19 cases hit the elderly in European nursing homes and hospitals particularly hard. This new wave seems to be concentrated in bars, restaurants, and public places and, at least initially, is primarily infecting young people.
“There is a true resurgence in cases in several countries as a result of physical distancing measures being relaxed,” the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement.
The ECDC said that 40 percent of Coronavirus cases between January and May were in people aged 60 or older. The highest concentration of June and July infections was in 20-29-year-olds, who accounted for just under 20 percent of new cases. The median age for Coronavirus cases has fallen from 54 to 39 since January.
“The proportion of complicated cases is much lower,” French Health Minister Olivier Véran said. “Patients diagnosed with [Covid-19] now are younger, 20 to 40, and less vulnerable.”
As a result of the younger age of most patients, the rate for deaths and complications from the virus has also fallen. Younger people are at a lower-risk for serious complications, but there is a risk that if the outbreaks are not contained that they might spread to older Europeans, who are more vulnerable
In an attempt to prevent wider spread, many European nations are reinstituting mitigation strategies, but are stopping short of the strict lockdowns from last spring. Newsweek reports that Italy has closed nightclubs and is mandating masks from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in areas near bars or public gatherings. Greece has imposed a midnight curfew for bars and restaurants in some affected areas and is requiring a negative COVID test for some international visitors. Masks are also being required in Brussels and the BBC reported that the Paris Marathon has been canceled.
The resurgence of Coronavirus in Europe underscores the difficulty of fighting a highly infectious disease. When people let their guard down and stop social distancing, the virus can quickly gain a foothold and start spreading. The pandemic won’t be over until we find a vaccine, an effective treatment, or until the disease runs its course. A vaccine will probably be quickest of those options. Seven different vaccines are currently in phase three trials, the last step before official approval.
The new European wave is also more evidence that the pandemic is not just a media construct to make President Trump look bad. It is a worldwide phenomenon and most countries in the world have had some sort of shelter policies to slow the spread. The associated economic problems are also global. The virus and the recession won’t magically disappear on November 5, no matter how much we wish they would.
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