In September, when the White House announced its plan to open up to vaccinated Europeans, the number of new Covid-19 cases in the US far exceeded the “old continent”.
At that time, the rate of new infections per capita in the US was nearly three times that of Europe. While European governments charted a path back to normal life, the United States struggled to cope with a surge in infections and the risk of overcrowding hospitals.
But by early this week, when Washington’s reopening plan went into effect and thousands of people crossed the Atlantic to the US, the epidemiological curve in the two regions had reversed.
The number of new infections in the US has increased slightly in recent two weeks, but is down more than 50% from the sharp outbreak in September. The US is now recording an average of about 70,000 new infections per day. The number of hospitalizations and deaths in the past two weeks decreased by 12% and 13%, respectively, according to NY Times.
Meanwhile, Europe once again became the epidemic center of the world. By the end of October, the continent’s total number of infections had surpassed that of the US, while a difficult winter awaits. The number of infections increased in most of the countries in the Schengen area, a group of 26 countries on the list of loosened entry regulations to the US.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on November 10 said about 3.1 million new infections were recorded globally last week, up 1% from the previous week, of which nearly 1.9 million were in Europe. Europe, where it increased by 7%. This is the sixth consecutive week that the number of infections in Europe has increased.
Europe is also the only region in the world to see an increase in the number of weekly deaths, while the number of deaths from Covid-19 globally decreased by 4%. Nearly half of the 61 countries in the WHO’s European region, which includes Russia and Central Asia, reported an increase of at least 10% in infections.
WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge last week warned the rate of infection in the region was “worrying”.
“According to a reliable forecast, if we continue to follow this trajectory, we will record an additional half a million deaths in Europe and Central Asia by early February next year,” Kluge warned.
The new wave of infections in Europe may not lead to a spike in death rates like the summer outbreak in the US, but it is a reminder of the cyclical nature of the pandemic, experts say.
“The situation in Europe is not a surprise. We have warned of an increase in cases around this time of year,” said Paul Wilmes, professor at the Luxembourg Center for Biomedical Systems, speak.
Some experts note that the vaccination success of some European countries such as Spain and Portugal, where cases have remained manageable despite the continent-wide upward trend, could is a role model for governments on this continent and around the world.
“It’s happening in many countries, but it’s not inevitable,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “We need to look at what is happening and what policies are contributing to it. There are things that can be done.”
The vaccination campaign in the US surpassed Europe in the early stages, but the “old continent” later tried to accelerate and reverse the trend. However, both the US and Europe must now find a way to immunize the tens of millions of people who are reluctant to get a vaccine.
US President Joe Biden recently harshly criticized the unvaccinated group, after many efforts to encourage and mobilize did not bring much effect. “Unvaccinated people have overwhelmed our hospitals, flooded emergency rooms and intensive care units, and left beds for heart attack, pancreatitis and cancer patients,” he said. said in September.
Some European governments have begun adopting Biden’s hardline stance, growing increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of vaccinations in the country.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier this month that the country was witnessing a “major pandemic” of unvaccinated people. “The truth is that there would be fewer Covid-19 patients in intensive care if all eligible people were vaccinated,” he said.
“Those who aren’t willing to help tackle the pandemic are putting other people at risk. They’re sabotaging the recovery of others,” McKee said.
In the US, Southern and Midwestern states have low vaccination rates. Of the 15 states with the lowest vaccination rates, 14 voted for Donald Trump and the Republican party in the 2020 election.
In Europe, vaccination rates also differ by region. Eastern Europe is a place with low vaccination rates and also a place where the number of infections has increased sharply, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia or the Czech Republic.
Another difference between the US and Europe is about masks. President Biden made the wearing of masks mandatory on his first day in office and has since urged states to require people to use them in schools, offices and other locations.
However, the masks have become a symbol of social division, partisanship in the US, even the source of many scuffles. Europe has avoided that split.
“Europeans don’t see wearing masks as a violation of individual freedoms like some regions in the US. This is certainly a cultural difference,” Professor Wilmes said.
Some European countries with high vaccination rates, such as Portugal and Spain, have cautiously relaxed mask regulations, still requiring people to wear them in certain locations.
Many European countries such as France, Germany, and Italy have approved the use of vaccine passports as “passports” to enter bars, clubs, restaurants, museums or participate in traffic.
“Vaccine passports both help discourage unvaccinated people and encourage people to get vaccinated,” says McKee.
The US doesn’t follow the same system as European countries, but Biden has pushed for a plan to make vaccination mandatory for companies and certain sectors. Last week, his administration announced that mandatory vaccinations, which apply to private businesses with more than 100 employees, health care workers and federal contractors, will take effect April 4. January 2022.
“Immunization is the best way out of the pandemic,” Biden said. “I hope to not have to resort to these regulations, but there are too many people who are not vaccinated, preventing us from getting out of the pandemic. So I have put in place the regulations and it is working.”
Thanh Tam (Follow CNN)