The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has now reached more than 45 countries in Europe, where (as of March 12) more than 30,000 people have tested positive for the disease, according to a Gatestone Institute tally based on calculations from European health ministries.
The disease is spreading fast: more than 28,000 coronavirus cases (93% of all cases) in Europe were confirmed during just the first twelve days of March. The number of new cases has been doubling, on average, every 72 hours.
Italy is Europe’s worst-affected country, followed by Spain, France and Germany. Twelve other European countries have reported coronavirus cases in the triple digits: Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Austria, Greece, the Czech Republic, Finland and Iceland.
In Europe as a whole, more than 1,200 people — 4.0% of those confirmed as having been infected — have died from COVID-19.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in a risk assessment, warned that the actual number of COVID-19 cases in Europe could be far higher due to under-detection, particularly among mild or asymptomatic cases that do not lead to a visit to the hospital.
After months of complacency, European leaders are beginning to acknowledge the scale of the unfolding crisis.
In Germany, Europe’s most populous country, Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her first public comments on the coronavirus, warned that more than two-thirds of the population — 58 million people — could get infected. During a press conference on March 11, nearly three weeks after the crisis in Germany began, she admitted:
“The virus has arrived in Europe, it is here, and we must all understand that. As long as there is no immunity in the population, no vaccines and no therapy, then a high percentage of the population — experts say 60% to 70% — will become infected.”
Merkel said that her government’s top priority was to slow down the contagion to prevent a collapse of the German healthcare system. Nevertheless, Germany has not implemented social distancing measures such as those in other European countries, including Italy, Spain and France.
In Britain, a leaked government report estimated that in a worst-case scenario, up to 80% of the population — 53 million people — could become infected with the coronavirus, and that half a million Britons could die from COVID-19. A survey conducted by The Doctors’ Association UK, a trade association for British doctors, found that only 1% of doctors in the country believe that the National Health Service is prepared to deal with a major outbreak of coronavirus.
In Ireland, one of Europe’s smaller countries with only 4.8 million inhabitants, healthcare officials said that 40% of the population — 1.9 million people — will almost certainly become infected with the coronavirus. Most of those would become sick within a three-week concentrated burst, which would place “intense pressure” on the healthcare system. Those figures were effectively confirmed by Paul Reid, CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE), which manages the delivery of all public health services in Ireland.
In Spain, where the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has increased exponentially in recent days, hospitals are overwhelmed and the healthcare systems in the most affected regions are in danger of collapse. In Andalusia and the Basque Country, hundreds of doctors and nurses have been quarantined to prevent hospitals from becoming centers of infection.
In Madrid, the head of the regional government, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said that medical professionals expected a significant increase in coronavirus cases this coming weekend and that the spread of the virus would peak over the next three weeks.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron said that the coronavirus epidemic was the country’s worst health crisis in a century and announced that schools throughout the country would close indefinitely beginning next week. “We are just at the beginning of this crisis,” Macron said. “In spite of all our efforts to break it, this virus is continuing to propagate and to accelerate.”
In Italy, more than 12,000 people are infected with coronavirus. On March 9, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered a nation-wide lockdown. The quarantine of Europe’s third-most populous country, with 60 million inhabitants, bans non-essential travel to, from and within Italy; prohibits all public events; and requires that people maintain a distance from each other of at least one meter (three feet). The restrictions were subsequently extended: all restaurants and bars, as well as all stores, except for grocery stores and pharmacies, have been ordered closed.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.