By Anna Noble
Disclaimer: The statistics included in this article were true of 5pm on the 26th February 2021
The UK is the worst affected country from coronavirus in Europe. John Hopkins University which has been tracking coronavirus observes that out of the 20 nations most affected by coronavirus, the UK has the highest level of deaths per 100,000 people of the population (181.70/100k), and the fifth highest case/fatality ratio (2. 9%). Despite these figures however and hundreds of people still dying of coronavirus in the UK daily, last week Boris Johnson set out his pathway out of lockdown.
coronavirus is still raging through Europe, with the numbers of cases and deaths across Europe (including the UK) remaining “worryingly high”.
Other European nations are not faring significantly better. Also appearing in the 20 most affected nations are Czechia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Slovakia, Poland, Germany and the Ukraine. Italy is consistent on both tables having the 3rd highest deaths per 100k population rate (158.39) and the 3rd highest case/fatality ratio (3.4%)- higher than the UKs. Germany has significantly less deaths per 100k of the population (81.93 but the 6th highest case fatality ratio (2.8%). France has the 9th highest deaths per 100k rate (124.72) but a slightly lower case/fatality ratio at 2.3% placing it 12th on the table. Unlike the UK all three countries have committed to continuing their coronavirus restrictions as they are, opting for a much more cautious approach.
Italy announced that it was “impossible” to lift restrictions in March. Germany have confirmed they are experiencing a third wave and reiterated that restrictions would not be significantly lifted. France in turn has increased restrictions in certain areas across the country.
The data is clear — coronavirus is still raging through Europe, with the numbers of cases and deaths across Europe (including the UK) remaining “worryingly high”. Yet, the UK has elected to commit to lifting coronavirus restrictions. Is this wise?
Whilst it is impossible to accurately predict the outcome of this approach at the moment. There are other variables that distinguish the UK with mainland Europe, particularly EU countries. Vaccines.
EU countries are less equipped to lessen restrictions as fewer of their citizens have protections against the virus.
The New York Times vaccine tracker shows that the UK has administered over 19 million people with their first vaccine amounting to over a quarter of the population. They are on track to have given all adults at least one dose of the vaccine by July. In contrast to this EU’s vaccine approach has so far been disastrous. No EU nation has vaccinated more than 10% of their population, France have vaccinated 3.8% of the population with their first jab, this is 4.1% in Germany. Supply issues have meant that both Pfizer and notably AstraZeneca have cut the number of doses that have been delivered to EU countries. This resulted in a well-publicised row between the EU and AstraZeneca. The fallout from this row has also been significant.
Furthermore, senior politicians from both Germany and France, including President Macron, publicly questioned the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, particularly in the over 65 category citing lack of research. Macron stated that it was “Quasi-ineffective” in older people. Many countries including Germany subsequently limited the distribution of AstraZeneca to those under 65. This approach has backfired significantly on Germany, who are now finding that people are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the country having only used around half of their available supply. As a consequence, EU countries are less equipped to lessen restrictions as fewer of their citizens have protections against the virus.
Research has suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in the over 65 population. Results published in Scotland last week, showed that 4 weeks after the initial AstraZeneca jab, the risk of hospitalisation fell by 94%. The results of the Pfizer vaccine were similar showing an 85% fall in hospitalisation risk four weeks after the first dose. Lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions are intended to prevent health systems from collapsing and preventing death. These results are encouraging and support the UK’s approach of a gradual release from lockdown as the vaccinated population increases. Ultimately the vaccines are our ticket out of coronavirus restrictions. Unfortunately, this is where the EU has fallen short.
Image: @helloimnik via Unsplash