It’s time to sound the alarm again. After a couple of months where things were relatively stable, Europe is once again reporting an increase of COVID-19 cases.
The scenario that epidemiologists fear is taking shape in Europe. After months of grueling lockdown, thousands of daily infections, and overflowing hospitals, things seemed largely under control. As countries seemed to gradually relax restrictions, things were alright — at first. Now, cases seem to be surging once again, especially in the southern parts of Europe.
For starters, this highlights what we’ve already known for quite a while: that the virus remains extremely contagious in summer, even in the scorching temperatures of southern Europe’s summer.
Secondly, Europe’s coronavirus resurgence is showing that we can’t really let our guard down. Even countries that had no major first wave are reporting a surge in cases.
Countries in central and eastern Europe, hailed as the “lesser-known coronavirus success stories” are not spared by this second wave.
Several governments are already taking measures to contain the spread. Several countries have imposed travel restrictions (such as quarantine after returning from Spain, for instance).
Belgium’s prime minister unveiled a new set of drastic social distancing measures in an attempt to prevent a new general lockdown amid a surge of COVID-19 infections. Mask-wearing is already mandated indoors across most of Europe, and several countries are already considering mandating mask-wearing in outdoor settings as well. The tightening of so-called social bubbles is also considered.
Markus Söder, prime minister of the German state of Bavaria, warned of “lots of mini-Ischgls” — hinting at the Austrian ski resort that experienced an early superspreader event early on in the pandemic.
However, unlike the earlier days of the pandemic, there don’t seem to be any specific superspreader events driving the pandemic — after all, those are still banned across the continent. It’s probable that multiple small events are pushing the numbers up, as citizens gradually become more relaxed and presumably care less and less about the restrictions (especially as it’s vacation season).
Officials also note that much of this growth is being driven by younger people, who are less concerned about getting sick and are more likely to frequent crowded places like clubs and pubs.
It’s debatable whether this is a technically second wave, as some researchers consider this to be somewhat of a misnomer applicable only to seasonal diseases, but whatever you may call it, this new development spells long-term trouble not just for Europe, but for the rest of the world.
As concerning as this European viral resurgence is, it’s still nothing compared to what the US is seeing, where cases have only slowed down over the past few days.
Based on everything we’ve seen so far, there’s a long and tedious road ahead of us in this pandemic.