Britain has a different approach as large parts of Europe tighten restrictions in the midst of the fourth wave of COVID-19

Shoppers walk past a message at a liquor store in London on November 20th.TOBY MELVILLE / Reuters

As large parts of Europe begin to tighten restrictions to stem a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases, Britain remains an island of calm and the government has no plans to change its relatively easy-touching approach to the disease.

Infections in many European countries have increased in recent days, and several nations, including Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have reported record daily incidents. As a result, many governments have introduced curfews, new vaccine passport rules and stricter rules on face clothing. Austria has begun a national lockdown for at least 10 days and the government is pushing ahead with plans to make vaccinations mandatory in February.

The restrictions have sparked protests in several countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, where days of riots have led to hundreds of arrests and extensive property damage. On Monday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn issued a direct message urging people to get vaccinated. “Probably by the end of this winter, as it is sometimes cynically said, pretty much everyone in Germany will have been vaccinated, cured or died,” Mr Spahn said.


Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases

per million people

Seven-day moving average

globe and mail, source: our world in data

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people

Seven-day moving average

globe and mail, source: our world in data

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people

Seven-day moving average

globe and mail, source: our world in data

Britain, on the other hand, has seen very little movement in its daily rate of infection, and there has been no attempt to tighten social restrictions, which are already minimal. Vaccine passes remain largely non-existent in most of the country and there are few places where face masks are mandatory.

Instead, the government has invested heavily in vaccines, hoping the British will slowly learn how to live with the virus. “We will probably, I hope, without being complacent, be the first major economy in the world to demonstrate how to change [from] pandemic for endemic use of vaccines, ā€¯Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Monday.

EU wants peace amid COVID-19 protests; troublemakers called ‘idiots’

The government has put a lot of trust in booster shots to avoid imposing tougher restrictions this winter. The booster program got off to a slow start last month, but it has gained momentum and as of Monday, more than 15 million people have received a third shot. Last week, the National Health Service expanded the eligibility for boosters to anyone over the age of 40, and it could soon expand the program to all adults.

“We have long warned that this terrible virus likes winter and likes the cold, dark days it brings, but the one big difference here is our booster program,” Health Minister Sajid Javid told the BBC on Sunday.

Mr. Javid has been keen to point to a study published last week by the UK Health Safety Agency that highlighted the effectiveness of booster shots. The study showed that two weeks after a third shot, Oxford-AstraZeneca jab provided 93 percent protection against infections in adults aged 50 years. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine provided 94 percent protection, according to the study.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has consistently ruled out moving forward and adopting the government’s “Plan B”, which would involve the introduction of vaccine passports, mandates for face masks and orders to work from home. He reiterated that on Monday, tells a business conference in London; “You have to be humble towards nature, but at the moment we see nothing in the data that says we have to move from level A to level B or any other level.”

Some experts say that in many ways Europe has simply overtaken Britain. Until recently, the UK’s infection rate had been consistently higher than in most European countries for several months, and the number of daily cases was routinely over 40,000. It is only in the last few days that countries such as Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Belgium have exceeded the UK’s daily figures. Austria’s infection rate has risen by 71 percent in the last two weeks, while in the Netherlands it has doubled.

Britain had one of the fastest vaccine deliveries in the world earlier this year, and some experts say protection against these shots began to fade after about six months. When most European countries followed Britain in their initials vaccination drive, experts say the reduced immunity could hit these countries now while affecting Britain last summer.

In addition to declining immunity, another possible reason is that some of them in several countries on the continent have received only a single dose.

“Decreasing vaccine immunity will more easily allow pioneering Delta virus infections – and such vaccine immunity will decline faster individually compared to double-vaccinated individuals,” said Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester.

Several health experts have warned that Britain’s infection rate remains high and that the government should take into account what is happening in Europe. If the number of cases continues to tick up in the UK, “we have no choice but to limit virus transmission by introducing some form of vaccine passport along with reintroducing mandatory face masks in overcrowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces,” said Lawrence Young, professor of molecularly. oncology at the University of Warwick. “These are minor inconveniences that could really help us through the winter months along with the continued rollout of booster vaccinations.”

Austria has begun its fourth national shutdown as coronavirus cases increase and intensive care capacity is stretched. Rachel Judah has more.

Reuters

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