Europe has broken through its all-time high for Covid cases, and is seeing sharp increases in infections right across the continent. The Covid superwave that started in Eastern Europe just one month ago has now spread to all corners of the continent, and doesn’t look like it’s about to break anytime soon.
Virtually every part of Europe is now seeing increases in infections as the winter superwave rolls in.
Virtually every government in Europe has pinned its hopes on Covid vaccines preventing further large waves of the disease, a tactic that we have repeatedly warned wouldn’t work. It has been obvious for months that vaccine waning and vaccine breakthroughs would make vaccines a poor first line of defence.
Europe needs to regroup, rethink, and redraw its lines of defence quickly. Greater defence in depth is needed by using mitigations that are proven to work.
Our estimation of the winter wave of 2020 shown in the diagram below suggests that a wave peak of around 13 – 15 million biweekly cases might have been reached had it not been for the mitigations imposed in Europe and North America in early November 2020.
The 2020 winter wave was broken in half by strong mitigations. It may already be too late to reintroduce them this to year to prevent the worst of the damage from the wave impact.
What was the lesson we all learned from earlier waves? Go in hard, go in strong?
With the half-hearted mitigations that Europe has put in place for the winter wave, it looks as though we are about to find out just how bad things can really get with Covid.
Updatable chart for Europe below – press your refresh button to update:
This isn’t the most difficult prediction we have ever had to make, but there is no doubt that, despite huge vaccination campaigns across the continent, the winter wave now breaking over Europe will be their worst wave of the pandemic so far.
The difference this year is that, despite raging infections in many European countries, despite vaccine waning, vaccine breakthroughs and reinfections, no government is yet considering measures that are strong enough to contain the tide.
Measures including lockdowns and working from home were imposed in many countries across Europe and North America in early November 2020 to prevent the winter wave worsening. Despite their huge unpopularity, the measures, particularly lockdowns, DID work.
The chart below shows our estimation of what the winter wave would have looked like in 2020 without lockdowns. The global winter wave of 2020 was broken in half by lockdowns in key European countries and in North America which made up the bulk of cases.
Our estimation of the size of the Covid global winter wave in 2020. The winter wave was smashed by lockdowns in Europe and North America:
In 2021, however, many countries in Europe have abandoned the use face masks, social distancing and working from home. Lockdowns have been also been ruled out by many governments, fearful of their unpopularity.
The chart below shows what the European Covid winter wave looks like on the 4th November 2021. The wave that is forming is virtually identical to the wave of 2020. The difference in 2021 is that there are no mitigations in reserve to prevent previous wave records being broken. Without urgent mitigations, this wave could be bigger than the one that engulfed India in the spring of 2021
Europe needs to take its head out of the sand, and do it quickly. There are very few tools left in the toolbox to deal with large waves, and every one of them will be needed this year.
We are still waiting for more data to come in to be able to make a prediction on the size of the global winter wave, but it’s not impossible that Europe alone could carry almost the entire burden of the winter wave this year.
Just to be crystal clear then:
- Vaccines won’t be enough to stop the wave
- Antivirals won’t be enough to stop the wave
- Vaccine passports won’t be enough to stop the wave
- Face masks won’t be enough to stop the wave
- Locking up the unvaccinated won’t be enough to stop the wave
“The current pace of transmission across the 53 countries of the European Region is of grave concern,” said regional WHO head Hans Kluge.
Kluge warned earlier that if Europe followed its current trajectory, there could be 500,000 COVID-related deaths in the region by February.
“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” he said.
Covid has surged across large parts of Europe again as a winter wave rolls across the continent:
Three European nations, Russia, Latvia and Romania, have recorded their highest ever Covid case rates since the pandemic began, and at least eight European nations are currently seeing their highest Covid case rates for six months.
It looks like Great Britain may see its highest ever figure for coronavirus cases quite soon, and Europe is looking like it may be the epicentre of the next winter wave.
Two European nations, Latvia and Romania, are seeing their highest ever case rates of the entire pandemic:
Update 18th October 2021: Russia has just recorded its highest ever figure for Covid infections
Eight European nations are seeing their highest case rates for six months. They are Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Armenia, Moldova, and Croatia.
The UK looks like it might soon break its all-time high record for Covid cases, set last January 2021, despite 80% of its population being vaccinated.
Winter is here.