Employees of Czech hospital beds maker Linet check beds to be used in the Covid-19 field hospital on October 20, 2020 in the Linet factory in the village Zelevcice, 30km south-east of Prague. Credit – Michal Cizep/AFP—Getty Images
Europe is clearly in the grip of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. In the past week, countries throughout Europe—including Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, the U.K, and Ukraine—have all recorded their highest daily caseloads since the pandemic started.
But two of these stand out. As of Oct. 25, Belgium and the Czech Republic are currently reporting about 146 and 115 new daily cases per 100,000 people, respectively, according to TIME’s coronavirus tracker, which compiles data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s dramatically higher than the E.U. average of 33 per 100,000.
The Czech Republic hit a new daily record of 15,258 new infections on Oct. 23; a day later, Belgium set its own record with 17,709 new daily cases. Belgium is now the epicenter of the E.U’s second wave, with the continent’s highest per-capita case rate (besides tiny Andorra). The country also has the world’s third highest number of COVID-19-related deaths per capita after Peru and tiny San Marino.
Experts speaking to TIME say they can’t point to anything specific that has made the Czech Republic or Belgium unique among E.U. states in their handling of the pandemic, instead attributing the rise in cases to a combination of factors, and the relatively arbitrary nature by which a virus spreads through populations.
Increased testing doesn’t fully explain the rise in case numbers
Marc Van Ranst, a virologist from the University of Leuven in Belgium, says the rise in cases can be partly explained by the increase in testing in his country. The number of daily tests has increased from about two out per 1,000 people each day in September to nearly six in recent days.
Testing has also increased in the Czech Republic over the same period, from about one per 1,000 people to around 3.5.
However, that cannot entirely account for the overall rise in cases, because the positivity rate—the share of tests that come back positive—rose in Belgium from around 2% in mid-September to over 18% in late October.
In the Czech Republic, that number soared from around 4% in to nearly 30% in the same period.
Population density may be a factor
Another potential factor for the situations in Belgium and the Czech Republic is their relatively high population densities. “You have to look at Belgium as one big city,” says Ranst. “That’s why in Brussels, where the population density is particularly high, the problem is acute.” For every square kilometer of land in Belgium there are 377 people; in the Czech Republic that number is 137. Compare those to the E.U. average of 112.
Pierre Van Damme, an epidemiologist in Belgium, said the reopening of universities at the end of September, in particular, has been a driver of
GENEVA (Reuters) – The world is now at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic and some countries are on a dangerous path, facing the prospect of health services collapsing under the strain, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.
“We are at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the Northern hemisphere,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. “The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track.”
“We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again. As I said it in February and I’m repeating it today: This is not a drill.”
Tedros said too many countries were now seeing an exponential increase in infections, “and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close or above capacity — and we’re still only in October”.
He said countries should take action to limit the spread of the virus quickly. Improving testing, tracing of contacts of those infected and isolation of those at risk of spreading the virus would enable countries to avoid mandatory lockdowns.
(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.
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Multiple European countries experienced record daily highs in new coronavirus cases this week as the pandemic surges again around the world.
France reported 30,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic hit, and nearly 200 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, according to the The Associated Press.
Cases began to rapidly increase in September, and have spiked in recent weeks.
Italy, an initial hotpot when the pandemic began, saw a new record daily high of 7,332 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. The previous record was set on March 21, when 6,557 cases were recorded over a 24-hour period, according to CNN.
Italy has seen a consecutive increase in cases for the past 10 weeks.
In Germany, 6,638 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, surpassing a previous record of 6,294 new cases recorded on March 28, The Robert Koch Institute confirmed Thursday morning.
The Czech Republic reported a record-high of new daily cases on Friday of 9,721, according to the country’s health ministry, as cases have seen a non-stop upward trend over the past two months.
Several affected countries are enforcing stricter lockdown measures in the wake of Europe’s COVID-19 surge, hoping to prevent future spikes.
The cases come as Europe and the U.S. head into the fall and winter seasons, which public health experts have warned could cause an increase in coronavirus cases as people move inside to get away from colder weather. Experts have also warned that this winter could be particularly deadly due to both the impending flu season and the coronavirus pandemic.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said on Thursday his government was giving priority to reopening air services to Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had discussed reopening air routes with the leaders of all three countries.… Read More