The fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is breaking over Europe, with few countries being spared a worrying rise in cases.
Comprehensive vaccination, it turns out, is necessary — but not sufficient — to contain the spread of the virus, which thrives in autumn and winter weather. Countries that had widely relaxed social-distancing restrictions over the summer are now considering re-implementing measures to stem the tide of increasing cases and hospitalizations.
POLITICO analyses the vaccination process around the continent and has split it in different categories.
Here is a list of the four groups:
The Overachievers: The success of vaccination campaigns in countries like Portugal, Malta and Spain — where 80 percent or more of the population has been fully vaccinated — translates directly to very low new cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
Could Do Better: Countries like the U.K., Germany and Austria have achieved vaccination rates in the 60- to mid-70 percent range — not enough to stop new cases rising. The relaxation of restrictions in the U.K. has also been a powerful driver of new infections.
Falling Behind: The three Baltic nations and some countries in Central Europe, such as Slovenia, are experiencing some of the highest rates of daily new cases per million people. Vaccination rates in the 50 percent region have left much of their populations unprotected from the virus and hospitalizations and deaths are much higher than their Western neighbors.
The Strugglers: The two countries that lag furthest behind on vaccinations are Bulgaria and Romania. Overburdened health systems have contributed to the perfect storm for the current wave of the virus, which is seeing worryingly high hospitalization levels.