Coronavirus cases in Europe are “almost back” to the levels seen in March when infection rates first peaked, scientists have warned as concerns grow over a potential second wave.
Countries across the continent have been easing lockdowns and reopening restaurants, retail stores and offices in an effort to kick-start their economies. But the relaxation of restrictions has seen a surge in infections that puts Europe in a vulnerable position.
“The virus hasn’t been sleeping over the summer, so it didn’t take vacation and that is something that we see now,” Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said on Wednesday during a debate held by the European Union.
She said the rise in reported infection rates had been slower than in March, when countries such as Italy and Spain were hit particularly hard by Covid-19, but had now been increasing for weeks.
However, deaths in Europe are down from a seven-day rolling average of about 4,000 in early April to around 300 at the start of September, according to CNN analysis of figures from Johns Hopkins University.
“We have seen now this week that the notification rate in the EU and EEA [European Economic Area] countries and the UK is now 46 per 100,000,” Ammon said. “You may remember that at one point we have been already below 15, so there is an increase and this increase we have been seeing now for more than five weeks … We are almost back to the numbers that we have seen in March.”
In mid-August, the ECDC said that new infection clusters seemed to be tied to younger people who were venturing out into bars, restaurants and other public places.
Ammon said Wednesday that the resurgence was now also being seen among older demographics. “In August … we are seeing more that also [an] older population is affected, indicating that it’s really a true increase in transmission,” she said.