Governments must tighten health measures to prevent a further winter surge in coronavirus cases driven by social interference during the year-end, the EU Infectious Diseases Agency said on Wednesday.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned that if no action is taken, there could be a jump in the burden on health systems due to coronavirus in December and January. Europe has experienced growth in both cases and hospitalizations in the last two months, with the increase most marked in Eastern Europe as well as Germany and Austria.
“The current average level of vaccine intake in the EU / EEA will be insufficient to limit the burden of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the winter months,” the ECDC said in a report.
If public health measures succeed in achieving a “high contact reduction”, then the burden created by the virus would be manageable in late December and early January.
Measures recommended by the ECDC include limiting participants in social events and celebrations at the end of the year, as well as promoting more masks, working from home, reducing the burden on public transport and ensuring adequate ventilation.
The Disease Control Agency said the situation varied between countries with low and medium vaccination rates, which cover most of Europe, and those who have vaccinated over 80 percent of their population – namely Spain, Malta and Portugal. The most vaccinated countries can continue with their current public health measures, although they may also see increases around holidays.
Booster doses can also help protect the population and slow the spread of disease, the ECDC said, citing the example of Israel and Britain. Adults over the age of 40, who received their last shot at least 6 months ago, should be given priority.
The report comes ahead of planned new recommendations from the European Commission on travel within and outside the block. EU officials said an update was expected today but was put on hold pending the ECDC’s assessment of the epidemiological situation.