After a year of quarantine since March 2020, the world was looking towards the end of this pandemic. However, just days after passing the one-year mark, Italy and a few other European countries were spotting a new wave, the third one.
In the beginning of the pandemic, Italy was one of the hardest hit countries, suffering from nearly 800 daily deaths and over 6000 new infections. In total, as of March 21 2021, the country of Italy has had almost 3.5 million infections and over a hundred thousand coronavirus-related deaths.
From their first wave, Italy looked towards vaccination as a way to recovery, now having administered almost 8 million doses of COVID vaccines so far, summing to about 6.4% of the country’s population. Data shows that Italy averages at around 150 thousand doses administered each day, showing that it will take another 75 days to vaccinate ten percent more of the Italian population.
With Italy’s rather high death rates, in comparison to other har-hit countries, the fear of a third upcoming wave bears much fear. Currently, according to Reuters’s COVID-19 Tracker, Italy is at 63% of its peak, which already shadows a high infection rate at around twenty-two thousand cases average each day. The average number of COVID-19 deaths reported each day has been steadily increasing for the past ten days.
A similar pattern is identifiable in other European countries as well. For Germany, another European country facing a third wave, doctors criticized the country and it government for the slow vaccine distribution, currently having less than 10% of the population vaccinated as of mid-March 2021. In addition, Hungary, a country that had imposed a strict 9 PM to 5 AM curfew and only allowing online-only classes, is also at risk for another wave. The government of Hungary is now requiring businesses to close all doors for 2 weeks, except for essential grocery stores and pharmacies. Hungary’s increase of daily cases is also from Hungary’s far-right party, Mi Hazank Mozgalom, as they continue to protest and hold demonstrations to stop the government’s restrictions. Poland assigned a three week lockdown where the country is required to close shops, hotels and theaters, from March 20. The Czech Republic hired officers and soldiers to regulate lockdown since March.
A common factor amongst the European countries is the lack of quick vaccine distribution. For the new AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, experts have halted the distribution after reports of blood clots surfaced. Though the World Health Organization assures countries to continue to use the vaccine, this obstacle will only hinder the end of the pandemic. Astra Zeneca responded by saying the vaccine does provide “less protection against mild disease caused by COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa, but offers the same efficacy against two other major variants”. Experts are hoping that the vaccination and experience gained from the past year will be sufficient to overcome the upcoming wave.
Bracing themselves for the impact of a third wave, European countries are now facing the attack more prepared and more knowledgeable since the last two — a hope that all is not lost.