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:
Dear Bucharestians, Dear Romanians,
It is becoming increasingly difficult for us, the medical staff, to cope with the wave of COVID-19 diseases, both among the population and among us, the medical staff.
The last days show us a medical system extended to the maximum and reached the limit, especially in the areas where COVID-19 patients are treated.
Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers, patients and medical staff infected with SARS-CoV-2 who need medical care. And the number is very high.
In the face of this dramatic picture, we think that the low degree of vaccination among the population is perhaps a failure in terms of the trust that must exist between the medical staff and the population.
Medicine is science, and science means research, exchange of experience, exchange of ideas, discussions for and against, so that in the end the result means the common good.
Today, evidence-based science and medicine tell us, including through the voices of international health reference forums, that vaccination is one of the most important tools for the most effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
YES, a vaccinated person can get sick.
YES, a vaccinated person can develop severe forms of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
BUT the proportion of these cases is much lower among vaccinated than unvaccinated people.
This open letter is not just another call thrown into the air.
It is a cry of despair , of us, of the Bucharest medical staff, through the voice of the College of Physicians of Bucharest , so that you, the population of Bucharest, but also the population of Romania as a whole, to reflect on the information transmitted.
We assure you that we are serious and correct about the information provided, that we rely on and present to you the scientific evidence we have at the time of communications and that we want and must fight to rebuild the relationship of trust between the doctor and his patient. , between doctor and society.
YES, we are desperate, because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals.
YES, we are desperate because no matter how hard we try, this parasitic disease takes our patients.
YES we are desperate because we are often faced with this disease unarmed and empty handed.
And YES, we are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times:
I can’t breathe… I’m not vaccinated
We talk to colleagues every day who tell us they don’t know what to do. We have young patients die, children end up in ATI wards, people with comorbidities die, people without comorbidities die.
We are at a crossroads and I believe that only a joint effort, ours and yours, can cap and stop this wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Science tells us today that by vaccinating and observing protective measures we can fight this pandemic much more effectively.
This call is born out of the suffering that is felt and lived in the medical units that treat COVID-19 patients and is written with the responsibility of people who put science and evidence-based medicine at the forefront.
Prof. Dr. Cătălina Poiană
President of the College of Physicians of Bucharest
On behalf of the Executive Bureau of the College of Physicians of Bucharest
Dragi bucureșteni, Dragi români,
Nouă, corpului medical, ne este din ce în ce mai greu să facem față valului de îmbolnăviri de COVID-19 atât în rândul populației, cât și în rândul nostru, al cadrelor medicale.
Ultimele zile ne arată un sistem medical întins la maximum și ajuns la limită, mai ales pe zonele unde se tratează pacienții COVID-19.
Zi de zi asistăm la tragedii: pacienți care mor, familii aflate în suferință, medici ajunși la capătul puterilor, pacienți și cadre medicale infectate cu SARS-CoV-2 care au nevoie de îngrijiri medicale. Iar numărul este foarte mare.
În fața acestui tablou dramatic, ne gândim că gradul scăzut de vaccinare în rândul populației reprezintă, poate, și un eșec în ceea ce privește încrederea care trebuie să existe între corpul medical și populație.
Medicina este știință, iar știința înseamnă cercetare, schimb de experiență, schimb de idei, discuții pro și contra, pentru ca la final rezultatul să însemne binele comun.
Astăzi, știința și medicina bazată pe dovezi ne spun, inclusiv prin vocile forurilor internaționale de referință în domeniul sănătății, că vaccinarea reprezintă unul dintre instrumentele importante pentru gestionarea cât mai eficientă a pandemiei de COVID-19.
DA, și o persoană vaccinată se poate îmbolnăvi.
DA, și o persoană vaccinată poate dezvolta forme severe ale infecției cu SARS-CoV-2.
DAR proporția acestor cazuri este mult mai mică în rândul persoanelor vaccinate față de cele nevaccinate.
Această scrisoare deschisă nu este doar un alt apel aruncat în eter.
Este un strigăt de disperare, al nostru, al corpului medical bucureștean, prin vocea Colegiului Medicilor din Municipiul București, pentru ca dumneavoastră, populația din București, dar și populația României în ansamblul său, să reflectați la informațiile transmise.
Vă asigurăm că suntem serioși și corecți în privința informațiilor furnizate, că ne bazăm și vă prezentăm dovezile științifice pe care le avem la dispoziție în momentul comunicărilor și că dorim și trebuie să luptăm să reconstruim relația de încredere care trebuie să existe între medic și pacientul său, între medic și societate.
DA, suntem disperați, pentru că zi de zi pierdem sute de pacienți care mor în spitalele românești.
DA, suntem disperați pentru că oricât de multe eforturi am face, această boală parșivă ne ia pacienți.
DA suntem disperați pentru că de multe ori suntem în fața acestei boli dezarmați și cu mâinile goale.
Și DA, suntem disperați, pentru că, din păcate, de prea multe ori am auzit:
Nu pot să respir… Nu sunt vaccinat…
Zilnic vorbim cu colegi care ne spun că nu știu ce să mai facă. Ne mor pacienți tineri, ajung copii în secțiile de ATI, mor oameni cu comorbidități, mor oameni fără comorbidități.
Suntem la răscruce și cred că doar un efort comun, al nostru și al dumneavoastră, poate face să plafonăm și să stopăm acest val al pandemiei de COVID-19.
Știința ne spune astăzi că prin vaccinare și prin respectarea măsurilor de protecție putem lupta mult mai eficient cu această pandemie.
Acest apel este născut din suferința care se simte și se trăiește în unitățile medicale care tratează pacienți COVID-19 și este scris cu responsabilitatea unor oameni care pun știința și medicina bazată pe dovezi pe primul plan.
Prof. dr. Cătălina Poiană
Președintele Colegiului Medicilor din Municipiul București
We predicted here and here that we would see a fresh Covid wave after October 19th, but even we didn’t expect Europe to ignite into a raging inferno within a couple of days. It is beginning to look like Europe may be the epicentre of the biggest global Covid wave yet this coming winter.
Morocco today banned flights to the UK, Germany and the Netherlands in response to the growing infection numbers.
What will happen with North America? It’s just coming out of a fairly major wave that peaked in September 2021. We should know within two weeks whether it has been spared a full-blown winter wave, but we doubt it. Relaxations in international travel over the summer will almost certainly mean a spillover from Europe to the US and Canada, which is exactly what happened in March 2020.
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.