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It remains to be seen how long this weekly column will continue to run. As far as Europe is concerned, the end of the acute pandemic stage of the corona crisis seems to be within reach. Except for a few exceptions, the figures are falling practically everywhere. And falling rapidly at that. Vaccination campaigns in combination with restrictions and the approaching summer heat definitely seem to be bearing fruit.

Never before have the figures fallen as rapidly as over the past fortnight. This becomes clear at a glance on the following sub-national slide charts in which the figures for the past seven days have been placed alongside those of the final week in April. The second slide chart shows the same effect, but in comparison with the last week of March.

Although the signal to call the corona hotspots extinguished cannot be given in most places yet, there has been a steady decline nearly everywhere. Lithuania and Cyprus, for example, still have a high infection rate, while Sweden has seen a rather modest drop and Denmark is still in its last throes. Nevertheless, this does not change the overall picture.

Indeed, the Netherlands sat on a plateau for a long time, but this has apparently changed over the past week. As one of the last countries on the continent, the figures here are also moving in the right direction. This is clearly visible on the heat map, which is markedly less ‘hot’ than at the beginning of this year.

Moreover, the proportion of positive test results is declining in a lot of countries, which in turn reduces the chance of outbreaks spreading under the radar of test and tracing. Although it must be said that the Netherlands does not seem to have this fully sorted out yet.

European jab pecking order

Last year in May, the number of infections also fell rapidly. That was not surprising, considering the fact that during the forst wave most governments kept their countries locked down until June. Things are different now. One country after another is easing restrictions without triggering any major new viral outbreaks. Vaccines are also proving to be the game-changer in this pandemic.

But what about the notorious Indian variant? According to British experts, it is certainly more contagious, although for a fully vaccinated person, it should not pose any higher a health risk than the ‘vanilla’ variant that the serums were developed for. The experts do, however, advocate stepping up the pace of the second shot in order to prevent new outbreaks. In the meantime, after the slow start, vaccinations are now proceeding full speed ahead. The potential number of people infected is reduced with each shot.

From pandemic to endemic

Will Corona soon be all over? Not at all. But soon lockdowns will no longer be necessary to keep the situation under control here in Europe. After all, the greatest risk during a pandemic is not a single infection, but the exponential factor that, in time, even the best healthcare system on earth will succumb to the continuous influx of new patients who are in mortal danger.

If the vaccination rate is high enough, this situation is unlikely to occur in the near future. It seems as if the corona crisis is moving from a pandemic phase to an endemic one. A single unlucky person may still become seriously ill, but it will not be thousands in one day. Then it can be seen as a kind of flu.

Globally, the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight by a long shot. The virus is spreading with unprecedented ferocity in India and its neighbouring countries. The year 2021 will be remembered mainly for splitting the world’s population into two sections. A wealthy vaccinated section that is gradually returning to the ‘old normal’. And an unfortunate unvaccinated section where the coronavirus still poses a profound risk to individuals as well as to the community at large.

The pandemic – along with all the risks it entails – will not be really over until impoverished children in the slums of Manila, Delhi or Rio de Janairo are properly protected as well. Until then, the microscopic threat lurks in the shadows, albeit at a greater distance from the Western world.

Nevertheless, the top 10 countries in the world with the highest number of vaccinated people per capita shows that it is not just the ‘stereotypical’ West who are carrying out vaccinations as fast as they can.

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