The coronavirus is already the fifth leading cause of death on the continent, behind cardiovascular, oncological, respiratory diseases and accidents
Europe is on track to once again lead the growth of the coronavirus in the world. It will be the third jump for the virus since it began at the end of last year: from Southeast Asia to Europe; from this to America; and back to the Old Continent. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) support this. For example, if diagnoses are taken for a week, these have grown in Europe by 34% between October 5 and 12 (last day with data). In America, the other major affected, they only rose 6% in that period. The director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeats this in his latest press conferences, the last time this Monday: “As the northern hemisphere enters winter, we are seeing cases accelerate, especially in Europe and North America.”
The change is anticipated with many data. For example, there are currently six American countries among the 10 that accumulate the most cases in the world. They are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia – ahead of Spain, which is seventh on the list -, Peru and Mexico. Apart from Spain, the other European countries on the list are Russia and France. On the other hand, if the 10 that more cases have registered in the last seven days are taken, five are European (France, Russia, Italy, Czech Republic and Holland). Poland (11th) is also ahead of Spain on this list, where it is thirteenth.
In total, in America there have been about 18 million cases, the majority from the United States (seven million) and Brazil (almost five million) and in Europe, eight million so far (Russia alone represents 1.2 million). The proportion is 2.25 infections in America for every one in Europe. But if you take the last seven days with data, in Europe there have been 700,000; across the Atlantic, 800,000. It is only 1.1 diagnoses in America for each European case.
With this clear trend, the director of the WHO European office, Hans Henri P. Kluge, speaks of “exponential growth in daily cases and the corresponding increase in deaths ”. “The evolution of the pandemic in Europe causes great concern: cases are increasing, hospitalizations are increasing. Covid is now the fifth leading cause of death and the limit of 1,000 deaths per day has been reached. The continent has reached 700,000 weekly cases ”, he adds. In total, it is estimated that the deaths from the infection on the continent already exceed 200,000 in the official count, to which must be added the deaths not directly attributed to the pathogen (more than 20,000 only in Spain), which places it ahead diseases of the digestive system, mental and behavioral diseases and the nervous system, including Alzheimer’s, according to Eurostat.
What is not clear is the reason for this new wave. Although there are no conclusive scientific studies, the arrival of the cold seems to be one (this is why Adhanom speaks of Europe and North America as the emerging places, since the south goes towards summer). In his last appearance, the WHO director for Europe points out that “there are technical reasons to observe greater trends in daily infections, one of which is, surely, the number of tests carried out, with even higher rates of tests among the younger age groups, who are less vulnerable ”. This, in turn, is a reason that mortality is falling, but this has “the potential to worsen dramatically if the disease spreads again among the elderly population if social contacts in closed places between generations increase.”
The European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) doesn’t go much further either. “The observed increase in transmission levels indicates that non-pharmacological interventions [las que tienen que ver con los hábitos y el comportamiento] that have been implanted have not achieved the desired effects, either because their follow-up is not optimal, or because they are insufficient measures to reduce or control exposure ”, he says.
In fact, all the proposals from international organizations and those taken by the countries (in Spain, also the communities) go in the same direction. Among what does not work, Kluge points out that in Europe, only 65% of the population uses the mask continuously and correctly. And this proportion must reach 95%. With this and “a strict control of social gatherings, both in public and private places, 281,000 loss of life can be avoided between now and February 1” in the 53 countries covered by the ECDC, he says.
This general guide has different answers depending on the state. As in Spain with the communities, it is not the most affected countries that necessarily take the most drastic measures. Thus, Ireland, with a rate of 253.7 in the latest ECDC compilation, the twelfth of the 31 countries covered by this body, announced on Tuesday a six-week national confinement, with a ban on traveling within five kilometers from home. The country had already banned consuming inside bars and restaurants and family visits to closed places. France has decreed a curfew in the largest cities.
Among the most severe, Belgium, with one of the highest incidents in Europe (828.6, well above the Spanish), has closed bars and restaurants, and only allows four guests to be received at home, “always the same” and Portugal (213.8) has declared a state of calamity and has restricted the groups to five, for example. On the opposite side is Sweden, which without special measures was one of the countries that had the worst time in the first wave. It reached rates of 550 and now it is at 84. In almost all countries (and in the Spanish autonomies) there is a shared objective: to reduce meetings and the consumption of alcohol. No body chooses one measure over another, since they claim that it depends on the country and that the same can be achieved in different ways. ECDC insists on the basics: finding cases, quarantine, identifying contacts, following them, wearing masks, washing hands, and maintaining social distance. They do not find a definitive measure pending medicines and vaccines.
“What we called confinement six months ago is not what we mean today,” said the director of the WHO European region. “March was a true closure, with every corner of our society and the economy frozen. It was the option because the coronavirus caught us off guard. Today it means something very different, it is a proportionate directed escalation, with clear objectives and limited time “in which” we are all committed to minimize collateral damage in our society, health and economy, “said Kluge. For the Director-General of WHO, this is a last resort.
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