The spring influx of Covid-19 cases is beginning to recede in Europe as the spread of vaccines on the continent is finally gaining momentum, boosting hopes for a wide opening of the region’s economy before the summer.
Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom, or Israel, which brought the coronavirus to some control earlier this year, thanks in part to the early and rapid spread of vaccines, continental Europe faced infection in late winter as governments there struggled to shoot people.
This is changing rapidly, as the growing supply of vaccines to the Member States of the European Union and the removal of bureaucratic and logistical barriers that accumulated efforts early are rapidly expanding access to vaccines.
Meanwhile, the suspension, curfew and other restrictions introduced in March and April are starting to reduce the number of cases, increasing the chances of a return to business before the summer tourist season, which is crucial for the region̵
As of May 2, EU member states had given 33.6 doses of vaccine per 100 inhabitants, according to data collected by Oxford University – less than half the level in the UK and US, but a big jump from a month ago and much more from in most emerging and developing economies.
Daily coronavirus infections in the EU have been declining since the beginning of April, and daily deaths related to Covid-19 have started to fall sharply since mid-April, according to government statistics.
As most EU countries have vaccinated at least a quarter of the population at least once, scientists say it is too early for vaccinations to reduce infections. But this effect should begin as soon as 40% to 60% of people have received at least one shot, which may come as early as late May, accelerating the decline in infections.
The acceleration of vaccination rates is mainly due to an increase in vaccine supplies in the region, which were hampered in the first quarter by delayed orders and production hiccups. In the three months to June, the EU expects to receive 400 million doses – including 250 million from vaccine leaders BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc.
“Compared to 107 million in the first quarter.”
Even more can be on the road. On Tuesday, the European Union Medicines Agency said it had launched a review of the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccine by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd., which faces questions about its effectiveness and has not yet been approved for use in no western countries.
“What has happened in recent months is that we have been able to successfully increase the amount of vaccines we produce and deliver in Europe,” said Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, before the Wall Street CEO meeting. Journal on Tuesday. . “It simply came to our notice then [vaccinations] will affect the infection rate in Europe … as early as the end of May. “
The supply boost has allowed governments to relax some of the stricter eligibility rules adopted when doses were scarcer. Although these measures ensured that only the most vulnerable people would have access to photos early, they also slowed down the spread.
In Germany, for example, vaccines were initially only available at state vaccination centers, and eligible recipients had to be invited before making an appointment, leaving local authorities to sit for weeks on unused doses. Since mid-April, doctors have been allowed to vaccinate in their own facilities, and some states have eased eligibility criteria. In Berlin, for example, everyone can now get the vaccine made by AstraZeneca PLC.
As a result, vaccinations averaged more than 600,000 a week and exceeded one million last Wednesday for the first time. As of Friday, 28.2% of Germans had received at least one shot, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases.
A model from the ZI Institute, a research team controlled by the German Ministry of Health, predicts that half of those eligible would receive the vaccine by the end of the month and two-thirds by mid-June.
Last week, France launched Covid-19 vaccinations for a larger group, including all obese adults. President Emmanuel Macron said the vaccinations would be open to all adults from June 15.
Some regions go further: Last week, the mayor of Cannes, on the French Riviera, opposed government guidelines, saying the city would open vaccinations for anyone over 40, regardless of medical condition.
In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi appointed General Francesco Figliuolo, a military logistics expert, in early March to activate and bring order to the initially slow and chaotic introduction of vaccines. By the end of April, General Figliuolo had increased the number of daily vaccinations to half a million, doubled the average earlier in the month, and aims to increase it further in June.
Now about 22% of Italy’s population has received at least one shot. General Figliuolo’s goal is to vaccinate 80% of the population by the end of September.
“The important thing is to finish the vaccination of the elderly and people with fragile health quickly and well. Protecting these people means reducing mortality in the medium term, “said Giovanni Reza, a top epidemiologist at Italy’s National Institutes of Health, on Friday.
With growing signs that the latest influx of infections has reached its peak and vaccinations are intensifying, European governments wishing to restart their economies after the eurozone fell into recession in the first quarter are beginning to remove some restrictions on businesses and residents. .
As of Monday in France, some junior and high school students have returned to the classroom after a period of distance learning. Now the French are also allowed to go more than 10 kilometers or about 6 miles from their homes without a permit. The shorter evening hours, the return of outdoor dining to cafes and restaurants and the opening of insignificant shops, museums, cinemas and theaters will be next, and gyms and indoor dining will have to restart early next month.
The weekly numbers of Covid-19 cases in Germany just started falling last week for the first time since the end of February, so the country is still not releasing its blockade. But on Tuesday, the government took steps to release people who have been fully vaccinated from certain restrictions, including the need to get tested before visiting hairdressers or non-essential stores, and quarantine requirements for travelers.
Some officials warn that governments must be cautious and gradual in reopening and be prepared to withdraw again if new variants of the virus emerge that could avoid some of the protection provided by current vaccines.
Yet many also expect their priorities to change over the next few weeks, from ensuring that anyone who wants a vaccine can get one, to convincing unwanted residents to shoot and assuring those who have had one. appear for their second dose.
“Within a few weeks, we could receive more doses than we have requests for appointments,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told the weekly Welt am Sonntag.
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