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Covid in Europe

A fourth wave of infections has resulted in a national emergency in Germany, ironically Europe’s largest economy. The nation’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has urged people to curtail social contacts, a directive that has been clothed with the caveat that vaccinations alone will not reduce the number of cases.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to afflict India to the horrifying degree that had been feared, especially among children, a concern voiced at one stage even by the West Bengal Chief Minister. But even as regulators in America have approved what they call “Covid boosters” for adults generally, the dreadful illness has again gripped Europe.

To the extent that Austria will become the first country in western Europe to reimpose what they call a “full lockdown”. The warning by neighbouring Germany that it might do the same has unnerved financial markets, direly worried as they are about the economic fallout, especially the impacts on health, education and employment.

Indeed, the reality is grim in the extreme. A fourth wave of infections has resulted in a national emergency in Germany, ironically Europe’s largest economy. The nation’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has urged people to curtail social contacts, a directive that has been clothed with the caveat that vaccinations alone will not reduce the number of cases. Austria will require its entire population to be vaccinated by 2022.

An estimated two-thirds of the country’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This has been rated as one of the lowest in western Europe. And yet the infections there are among the highest on the continent. “We have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,” is the high-minded lament of Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, who over the weekend announced that the lockdown would start on Monday, with 1 February being the target date for full vaccination.

“It hurts that such measures still have to be taken.” We do not know if Germany will follow the Austrian praxis of “full lockdown”; yet we do know that Germany’s health minister has gone on record as saying that “we are now in a situation ~ even if this produces a news alert ~ where we can’t rule anything out.”

Consequent to the corona resurgence, European stocks have retreated from record highs. There is today a fresh shadow over the global economy. Yields from government bonds, oil prices and the Euro are said to have tumbled in the wake of the spectre of yet another Covid-linked lockdown in Germany and other parts of Europe.

Several governments have started to reimpose restrictions on activity. There is for instance a full lockdown in Austria, a partial lockdown in the Netherlands, and restrictions on the unvaccinated in swathes of Germany, the Czech Republic, and parts of Slovakia. Hungary reported as many as 11,289 fresh Covid cases on Friday, its highest daily tally.

The government in Budapest will make booster shots mandatory for all healthcare workers. Compulsory too will be the wearing of masks indoors. Clearly, the scourge is far from over, and raises fresh questions about how the world’s most developed nations have managed the health emergency.