Over the summer months, the continent saw infection clusters popping up mostly among younger people who were venturing out into bars, restaurants and other public spaces. While that wasn’t ideal, it meant the death rate stayed relatively low, since younger people are statistically less vulnerable to the virus and most avoid getting seriously ill.
However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned that more older people are now becoming infected. According to the ECDC’s latest situation report, at least 13 countries in Europe saw new infection rates among people aged 65 or over rise to what ECDC defines as “high” last week between 64 per 100,000 in Croatia and 206 per 100,000 in the Netherlands.
A sharp increase in infections among older people in recent weeks can be seen in almost all European countries where data is available.Covid-19 infection rates among over-65s in some Eastern European countries are now more than double what they were during the first wave – over 100 in the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary.
Higher infection rates among the elderly are worrying because older people are much more likely to end up in hospital and to face a significantly higher risk of dying.
According to the World Health Organization, almost 88% of all deaths in Europe were among the over-65 age group, as of late August.
Many European countries are now racing against the clock to prevent their health systems from becoming overloaded.
And while there were suggestions earlier in the pandemic that if the elderly could somehow be protected from the virus, then the rest of society should be able to continue life as normal, most governments are now realizing that plan failed.
Faced with a spike in cases, Ireland announced Monday that it will reimpose a six-week lockdown from Wednesday.
The Czech Republic went into lockdown last week. On Monday, the government made face masks compulsory nearly everywhere. Belgium has introduced a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m.
The Spanish government declared a state of emergency in the Madrid region almost two weeks ago. On Tuesday, it said it was also considering imposing a curfew, which could be implemented in other parts of the country too.
In the United Kingdom, Wales will go into a two-week “fire break” lockdown from Friday, the country’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said Monday.
A number of major French cities including Paris, Grenoble, Montpellier, Toulouse, Lille and Lyon have curfews in place between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a new set of tighter restrictions on Sunday, after the country recorded new record high numbers of positive tests for a fifth consecutive day. Crucially, Conte has given Italian mayors the power to impose curfews in public areas after 9 p.m.
Experts say the widespread lockdowns are necessary to protect the elderly and vulnerable.
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