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Outbreaks force Europe to advance restrictions

The outbreaks, which represent a less homogeneous distribution in the appearance of new cases of covid-19 than when there is community transmission, have altered the map of the coronavirus in Western Europe. And with it, the attitude of the governments. In the height of summer, and given the weight of tourism in the continent’s economy, the most striking are the various quarantines imposed: from the United Kingdom to Spain and France, from the latter to the United Kingdom; Germany’s advice not to travel to Spain.

Executives have had to advance measures that they hoped would not have to use except in a serious second wave in the fall. But you didn’t have to wait that long. The incidence of cases is on the rise throughout the continent, and it is the case that in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia it is higher during the new normal than at the peak of the pandemic. The United Kingdom stands out for its death rate, although the British Government has revised the figure down this week. The change in methodology -which has implied a reduction in the number of deaths by 5,000- is justified in that, to date, the death of any person who had tested positive for covid-19 had been recorded to date (even if several months between being tested for the virus and death). England has just adopted the same system as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which only attributes deaths within 28 days of infection to covid.

The country began the de-escalation the second week of June. The Executive encouraged citizens to reactivate the economy and launched a subsidy campaign for restaurants to apply discounts that attract customers. The recommendation of the two meters of social distance was cut in half. But the United Kingdom continued to present high numbers of infections, especially in foci of England where certain restrictions have already begun to be reintroduced.

This situation led to decree the closure in early July of the town of Leicester (located in the center of the country, 300,000 inhabitants), which affects shops but does not limit exits to the street. Weeks later, restrictions were put in place in 10 northern municipalities, including Manchester. Faced with the risk of a second wave in Europe, Boris Johnson decreed, on July 25, a two-week quarantine for travelers arriving in the country from Spain, one of the favorite destinations of British tourism. The list of countries has been expanding, and as of this Friday includes the Netherlands, Monaco, the Turks and Caicos Islands archipelago, Malta, Aruba and France (where there are an estimated 160,000 British vacationers).

In the latter country, the alarm was raised by the prime minister, Jean Castex, on Tuesday: France “is not going in the right direction” and, if the country does not react and begins, individually and collectively, to comply with all prevention measures of the coronavirus, the epidemic could return to “difficult to control” proportions, he said. Paris and Marseille are “red” zones since Friday due to a “high circulation of the virus”, so the prefects can decide on new restrictive measures, from closing bars or reducing their capacity to limiting mobility. France is forced to replicate the quarantine imposed by the United Kingdom, although it is not currently considering applying it to neighbors such as Spain, for which it only maintains its recommendation not to travel to Catalonia or Aragon. Of course, on Friday it increased to 33 countries and regions whose travelers are required to have an analysis to enter France, which performs an average of 600,000 weekly tests.

By the time Castex took the floor – who before being Prime Minister was Monsieur Déconfinement, the man appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to design the de-escalation strategy in France – almost all the indices had already skyrocketed: the average number of daily infections far exceeded the 2,000 cases – 2,846 were reached on Friday, the highest rate since the end of May – when three weeks ago there were a thousand; The country has already reached the surveillance threshold (more than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants) and, in some departments, it has long been at an “alert level” of 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. And although the number of hospitalizations remains far from the peaks during the worst of the crisis, in April, the data once again show a worrying rebound: 800 hospitalizations per week -increased in those under 40 years old- and 100 admissions to intensive care, in addition that 25 daily outbreaks are identified, when three weeks ago there were only five. “Very worrying”, stressed Castex, who in a new turn of the government’s discourse urged to “expand to the maximum” the use of a mask in outdoor spaces.

Change in Germany

Germany has been a model for managing the pandemic throughout the world, with a relatively low mortality rate and with the spread of the virus under the control of health authorities, capable of keeping track of infections. But the number of positives since the end of July indicates that the situation has changed. There is a clear regrowth and you have to go back to the beginning of May to find such high figures. In the last 24 hours, 1,415 positive cases have been registered and six people have died.

The Robert Koch Institute records a total of 222,828 cases since the beginning of the epidemic and 9,231 deaths. It also indicates that the number of municipalities with zero infections in the last seven days has fallen drastically, from 125 to 29. Unlike the peaks of infections registered before the summer, positive cases now spread practically throughout the territory and not these are large isolated shoots and therefore more easily controllable. The average age of those infected also registered a significant drop. The epidemiological institute of reference recommends in its latest report to carry out all possible activities in the open air and to reduce the number of personal contacts with the closest family and friends, avoiding in any case large crowds.

The German Government considers the situation “worrying”, has asked citizens to take extreme precautions and has strengthened health control at the borders by forcing everyone who arrives from abroad from a risk area to undergo an analysis. On Friday, Berlin included Spain – with the exception of the Canary Islands – in the list of countries and regions to which it advises against traveling. Those arriving from Spain should take the test at the airport or at the land borders and wait in quarantine for the result.

The German rebound coincides with the reopening of the school year, which like every year has taken place in a staggered manner in the different Länder. Every land decide the rules that your schools apply. In some, for example, students must wear the mask in class, while in others they only have to wear it in common areas, such as the corridor or the bathrooms.

This second muffled wave is clearly seen in the numbers. In the first phase of the epidemic, the countries with the most cases were simply the most populated, the so-called big five. Thus, as of June 20 – the last day of the de-escalation in Spain – the United Kingdom accumulated 301,815 positives; Spain, 245,575; Italy, 238,011; Germany, 189,135 and France, 159,452, according to data from the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC).

But from that point on, this correlation has been broken. From June 20 to August 12, the European country with the most cases has been Spain (81,037), followed by France (44,720), Romania (40,362), Germany (29,384) and Sweden (27,083). In front of the other two big ones, Italy and the United Kingdom, there are still Portugal, Belgium and Poland.

If the rates per 100,000 inhabitants are taken from June 20, the list is headed by Luxembourg (517.19), Sweden (265.93), Romania (207.33) and Spain (173.44). In that period, the average of the countries considered in the ECDC data fell by 76%. Romania and Bulgaria attract attention. The first finished the hard phase in 18th position by incidence (120.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), and is the third of the new normal (207.33). The second was the penultimate of the 31 countries on the list (53.5), only ahead of Greece, and is fifth in the ranking since June 20 (rate of 142). Countries such as Austria and Italy have placed obstacles to the reception of travelers from Romania and Bulgaria, in which there have been problems with the messages of the leaders, to the point that two months ago the Prime Minister of Romania, Ludovic Orban, was fined with about 620 euros for smoking in a closed public place and without a mask.

In the opposite direction is the case of Italy, which the president of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave as an example on Thursday. On June 20 it had a rate of 393.9, but since then it has dropped to 21.84, the largest decline in Europe. In the same period, Spain has lowered its incidence by 67%.

In addition to this indicator, in this second stage of the spread of the virus its lethality (percentage of those affected who die) has plummeted. Before the new normal it was at 11.60% (in Spain it was 11.53%), and during the last two months it has dropped to 2.75% (in Spain to 0.33%).

Information about the coronavirus

– Here you can follow the last hour on the evolution of the pandemic

– This is how the coronavirus curve evolves in Spain and in each autonomy

– Search engine: The new normal by municipalities

– Questions and answers about the coronavirus

– Guide to action against the disease


elpais.com