The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published on Friday a new COVID-19 risk assessment for the EU/EEA and UK. In the latest map on the transmission of the coronavirus, most EU countries are coloured red.
“The continuing increases in COVID-19 infections across the EU/EEA pose a major threat to public health, with most countries having a highly concerning epidemiological situation,” commented Andrea Ammon, Director of ECDC. “The impact in terms of pressure on healthcare services and mortality has become increasingly evident.”
With high levels of community transmission, the protection of vulnerable individuals becomes harder, and it is inevitable that more of them will develop severe disease, she added.
“Strong public health action is necessary to revert an imminent risk of healthcare systems being overwhelmed and unable to provide accessible, safe, and qualitative care.”
In its updated risk assessment, ECDC’s key message is that the current epidemiological situation is a serious concern as it poses an increasing risk of transmission, requiring immediate, targeted public health action. The map shows the situation a week ago, during weeks 41 – 42 (5 – 18 October).
Reported test positivity has been steadily increasing since August and has shown a marked escalation in recent weeks, pointing to a real increase in rates of viral transmission, rather than just a rise in reported cases attributable to increased testing.
Group immunity is still far away besides the uncertainty if it is permanent. “Vulnerability to infection remains high, as available data from seroprevalence studies indicate that the level of immunity in the population is <15% in most areas.”
At the European Council last week, EU leaders welcomed the progress achieved so far on overall coordination at EU level against COVID-19, including the recommendation adopted by the Council, following a proposal by the European Commission on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement.
But more coordination is required and the EU leaders agreed to continue the coordination effort, regarding among others quarantine regulations, cross-border contact tracing and testing strategies,
Asked by The Brussels Times at today’s press conference whether the Commission is monitoring the implementation by the member states of the Council recommendation, a spokesperson replied that it was first of all up to the member states themselves to do the follow-up. He reminded them that they have an obligation of notifying each-other and the Commission of any measures at least 48 hours in advance.
“We are of course also following-up the measures but we are still in an early phase and don’t have a complete overview of how the member states have adapted their measures to the recommendation since it was adopted,” he explained. Measures announced by the member states are also published on the Commission’s “Reopen” website so that citizens are well-informed.
Belgium is one of the hardest hit countries and the country announced on Friday the tightening of measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht warned that “this week, we will probably move towards 20,000 cases per day.”
A measure not yet re-introduced is the compulsory wearing of masks in the public space; some weeks ago, when the number of daily infections started to increase, it was suddenly relaxed in Belgium. In a string of messages, Marius Gilbert, an epidemiologist at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), referred to the mask as the “coronavirus’ condom”.