The fourth wave of the emerging coronavirus is hitting Europe hard, forcing governments to take drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus and stop the deterioration of conditions inside hospitals.
Germany, like some of its neighbors, has restricted the access of the unvaccinated to public places, and last Friday the Austrian government took harsher measures, ordering a national closure for three weeks, and said that from next February vaccination will become mandatory. It is the first of its kind in any advanced economy.
With the advent of the autumn, the expectations of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Europe were almost certain, especially with the spread of the most contagious delta variant and the coldest weather. There is a sudden rise in hospital admissions and death rates.
The death rate in Slovakia is now four times than that in the United Kingdom, and Austrian hospitals, which have the second-highest proportion of critical care beds per capita in Europe after Germany, are at stake, and hospitals in parts of Germany, where new cases have reached the historic level.
Some parts of Europe are now paying a heavy price for insufficient vaccines, as the vast majority of those with deadly symptoms of Covid-19 are not immunized, and the problem is exacerbated in Central and Eastern Europe, where only 43% of Romanian adults have been vaccinated regularly.
In Bulgaria, the vaccination rate was only 29%, there is no stable government, which spreads distrust of governmental or medical authority, as is the case in many former communist countries.
Even countries that achieved high rates of vaccination were forced to re-implement social distancing measures; Where the Netherlands decided to close restaurants and bars early, and Belgium imposed working from home four days a week, indicating that its lack of resort to more drastic steps at the present time can be explained by its success in vaccination (81%, and 87%, respectively), as Spain and Portugal were effective in immunizing their population through good public health campaigns.
In other countries, stronger incentives, degrees of discrimination, and sometimes coercive measures were needed; France and Italy implemented mandatory Covid-19 permits for access to restaurants, entertainment venues, and long-distance trains, and Italy expanded them to include entry to workplaces.
But in Austria, as in other German-speaking regions and elsewhere in Central Europe – are the large number of vaccine refusers, who are convinced by conspiracy theories that have been inflated by far-right political parties.