22 June 2022 Blog: On COVID in Europe

Media outlets, like CNN and The Guardian, are reporting on a rising wave of cases in Europe as the traditionally busy summer travel season on the continent begins.

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/22/world/coronavirus-newsletter-intl-06-22-22/index.html

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/21/covid-surges-europe-ba4-ba5-cases

As an interesting aside, note that the CNN article references raw numbers while the Guardian article speaks (more appropriately and accurately) in terms of case rates. Prior blog posts here have discussed the importance of rates over raw numbers to ensure accurate comparison of data.

Portugal and France have had the most dramatic surge with Germany also experiencing a rapid rise in case rates (Figure below). Summarized neatly by the Guardian:

Multiple European countries are experiencing a significant surge in new Covid-19 infections, as experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer leading to more deaths.”

These figures fit with our anecdotal reports from patients who are currently in Europe or have recently returned. Firstly, there are no masks to be seen – from Italy, to Portugal, France and Germany. Significant summer heat has been an additional barrier to mask wearing. Crowded tourist spots, restaurants and the lifting of restrictions of mask wearing in airports and airplanes gives ample and redundant opportunities to be exposed to the Omicron subvariants now circulating. Multiple patients in our practice have fallen ill and tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Europe.

Complicating the situation in Europe is the lack of Paxlovid availability. Although there is no evidence that Paxlovid is effective in prevention after a close exposure and has limited (if any) utility among those at low risk, it does seem to have some efficacy among those individuals that are older, at high risk of progression or are unvaccinated.

It is a reasonable question at this point as to whether or not COVID-19 infection is simply inevitable. While I don’t believe that we are doomed, it does seem that any activity that is outside of the sphere we have established over the past two years leaves one at considerable risk, augmented by a higher prevalence of infection, abandoned mitigation practices and more transmissible variants. That is not to say that one should not attend a wedding, travel to Europe or have that 40 person family reunion. But do so with the expectation that time, proximity and widening your social circle will, in all likelihood, leave you at risk of acquiring COVID-19.

𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝘂𝗿 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿

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