LISBON, Portugal — In a high-stakes race to avoid hospital wards from filling up again with patients battling for their lives, countries throughout Europe are rushing to speed up coronavirus vaccines and outrun the development of the more virulent delta variant of COVID-19.
The urgency coincides with Europe’s summer vacations when pleasant weather encourages more social gatherings and governments are hesitant to restrict them. The need for social distance is being overlooked, particularly among the young, and several nations are eliminating the obligation to wear masks outside.
Free food, vacation and entertainment coupons, and prize draws are among the incentives offered to individuals who get injections. Cyprus’s president even invoked patriotism in his speech.
According to the European Centre for Disease Control, which monitors 30 nations on the continent, the risk of infection from the delta form is “high to extremely high” for partly or unvaccinated communities. The variation is expected to account for 90% of cases in the European Union’s 27 countries by the end of August, according to the study.
The ECDC cautioned, “It is critical to move forward with the vaccination deployment at a rapid speed.”
Also worried is the World Health Organization. According to Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19’s technical head, the variation makes transmission growth “exponential.”
In nations like the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Russia, daily new case counts are already on the rise.
Cases of the delta strain have surged fourfold in less than a month in the United Kingdom, with confirmed cases up 46% from the previous week on Friday.
The delta variation, which accounted for only 4% of cases in May but over 56% in June, has seen a “vertiginous” surge, according to Portuguese health officials. For the first time since early April, the country is reporting the greatest number of daily cases since February, and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has reached 500.
In June, the number of new infections reported in Russia more than quadrupled, reaching 20,000 per day this week, while new fatalities reached 697 on Saturday, the fifth consecutive day that the daily death toll established a new high.
Despite the fact that the viral situation in a number of Russian regions is “tense,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated during a briefing that “no one wants any lockdowns.”
The virus is spreading considerably quicker among younger individuals in several nations. On Friday, Spain’s national 14-day case notification rate per 100,000 persons increased to 152. However, it increased to 449 among those aged 20 to 29.
Those figures have sparked concern throughout the continent.
To help prevent a feared new outbreak, the Dutch government is expanding its immunization campaign to include individuals aged 12 to 17. After their first vaccination, Greece is giving young adults a credit of 150 euros ($177). Authorities in Rome are considering using vans to vaccinate beachgoers. Last week, Poland introduced a lottery available exclusively to fully vaccinated people, with new vehicles as one of the rewards.
The Portuguese government has expanded the hours of vaccination facilities, opened additional walk-in clinics, enlisted the military to assist with vaccination efforts, and cut the time between two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from 12 to eight weeks.
Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva remarked, “We’re in a race against the time.”
The development of variations in the fight against vaccination hesitancy across Europe has fueled public doubt about the efficacy of the injections. Claudia Aguilar, a 58-year-old archaeologist from Madrid, had her second Pfizer-BioNTech shot this week in an auditorium that is extending its working hours overnight.
Despite this, she stated that she is “not convinced I’ll actually be resistant” to future variations.
“I mean, I’m a little doubtful that this will help,” Aguilar added.
“Now it’s becoming essential, and we all understand why – the pandemic’s third wave has begun here,” she explained.
Some governments look more inclined to rewarding public patience than thinking about reintroducing restrictions fifteen months after WHO designated COVID-19 a pandemic.
Last week, 40,000 people attended England’s European Championship soccer match versus Germany at Wembley Stadium in London. New regulations in Portugal have been haphazard, such as reducing restaurant opening hours on weekends.
Restaurants, pubs, and cafés in Moscow, on the other hand, began admitting only clients who had been vaccinated, had recovered from COVID-19 in the previous six months, or could give a negative test within the preceding 72 hours on Monday.
Despite rapidly growing instances of the delta type, France relaxed the last of its main restrictions on Wednesday, allowing limitless crowds in restaurants, weddings, and most cultural events.
Tiago Correia, an associate professor at the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Lisbon, notices a general sense of impatience among the population, particularly among young people eager to enjoy the pleasant summer nights.
“People want to go back to normal faster than the vaccine rollout,” he explained.
The emergence of new variations has shed insight on the vaccination campaigns’ extraordinary scope. According to the ECDC, 61 percent of persons over the age of 18 have received one vaccination and 40 percent have been fully immunized in the nations it surveys.
However, Dr. Hans Kluge, the chief of the WHO’s Europe branch, warned this week that the delta variety is on the verge of becoming dominant in the 53-country zone he oversees by August. He also points out that 63 percent of people in that region have never gotten a flu shot.
“Three factors are thus in place for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and fatalities before the (fall): New variations, low vaccination uptake, and greater social mixing, according to Kluge.