The burden on national health systems in Europe from Covid will be “very high,” in December and January unless governments ramp up prevention efforts, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warned on Wednesday.
European governments should accelerate their vaccination rates, administer booster shots and reintroduce restrictions, Andrea Ammon, the E.C.D.C. director said in a statement. “And all those three things have to be done now,” she said. “This is not pick and choose.”
About 66 percent of the European Union’s total population has been fully inoculated, according to the E.C.D.C. data. This leaves “a large vaccination gap that cannot be bridged rapidly and gives ample room for the virus to spread,” Ms. Ammon said.
Recommended restrictions could include wearing face masks, working from home, keeping a safe distance and reducing social interactions. Lockdowns are like an “emergency brake,” Ms. Ammon said, used when “you want to bring down a very high case number in a short period of time.”
Asked whether seasonal festivities should be canceled, Ms. Ammon replied: “We still have some time until Christmas. But if the situation doesn’t get better, it might mean that these measures should be taken over Christmas as well.”
On Wednesday, Italy announced new restrictions for the unvaccinated, barring them from dining indoors in restaurants and bars; attending shows, sport events and public ceremonies; and entering nightclubs.
The E.C.D.C. also recommended that booster doses should be “considered” for all adults, with a priority given to those above 40 years old. On Tuesday, Italy allowed vaccinated people to get a booster shot five months after the second shot of their initial vaccination. On Wednesday, Portugal’s health secretary said the country would give booster shots to a quarter of its population by the end of January, Reuters reported.
Europe has seen a sharp spike in the number of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks, prompting governments to impose new restrictions, including a lockdown in Austria, one of the first in Western Europe since vaccines became available.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Europeans across the continent protested, sometimes violently, against vaccine mandates and new restrictions, and on Wednesday, more than 1,000 people protested in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, according to The Associated Press.