COVID-19: Three-quarters of European countries see coronavirus cases rise

The UK has seen a steep drop in COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths – but the picture in much of the rest of Europe is very different.

Sky News analysis has found cases are rising in three-quarters of European countries, with the highest increases happening in central and eastern Europe.

Only nine of the 40 European countries analysed recorded fewer cases in the first week of March than they did in mid-February, with Portugal, Spain and the UK registering the largest drops.

Spain is the only country that has a lower case rate than it did at the end of September.

Most of the countries that have seen their highest rises are in central and eastern Europe, which saw large-scale infections later than western Europe when the pandemic started a year ago.

Increasing cases are a major concern as the pandemic has shown that usually leads to a rise in hospital admissions, pressure on healthcare systems and then deaths.

Parts of Estonia ran out of hospital beds this week, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have had to move COVID hospital patients to other European countries and Latvian hospitals are preparing for a third coronavirus wave.

Europe was hit hard when the pandemic first spread to the continent last year, but this time is different as there are now several variants to deal with that are more contagious, while one study suggests the Kent one is more deadly.

Hopes are being pinned on vaccine rollouts but they are happening at different speeds across Europe, with the UK one of the fastest while EU countries lag behind.

As the pandemic continues, it remains important to consider cases, deaths, hospital admissions, positivity rates – the number of people testing positive – and vaccination rates.

The Czech Republic is in the worst situation in Europe but other nations are not doing much better.

This next group are doing alright but some of their indicators are not ideal.

The UK is one of the countries that is faring the best in Europe, along with a handful of others.

The charts above only include countries that have published a complete set of data.

Although the UK has vaccinated more than a third of its population with a first dose, the fact Europe’s cases are rising is a cause for concern, said Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds.

“I think we should be shutting our borders as we’ve got possible variants that can get imported,” he told Sky News.

“It’s difficult to say this without being accused of being a scaremonger but there is a human cost and we’re still seeing deaths.

“If we keep our borders too open we’ll get this tail that the virus can hook on to, it won’t take much to kick off again in the UK – we’re not out of danger yet.”

Methodology

The radar charts include the rate of cases and deaths per 100,000 for the week 1 to 7 March, the positivity rate for the week 22 to 28 February, the rate of total vaccines given per 100,000 for the most recent day available, the daily average of people in hospital per 100,000 for the week 22 to 28 February and the change of infections between 1 to 7 March and 15 to 21 February. When data for the weeks mentioned is not available, the most recent week has been considered. Data for the UK for patients in hospitals and the positivity rate comes from the UK government coronavirus dashboard.

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