Is the summer that everyone has been so eagerly waiting for finally beginning? In any event, outgoing Dutch minister of health Hugo de Jonge and outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte are firmly convinced that it is. Is this entirely based on hot air? Not at all. Things are quieting down in the hospitals and now even the ‘be vigilant’ alert level is in sight.

And the Netherlands is also anything but unique in this respect. Actually this was a week of low records everywhere in Europe. And although our country is still above the continental average, there is (almost) nowhere where acute pandemic calamities are really happening. Practically nowhere. The subnational maps below clearly show how this looks compared to four and eight weeks ago. A world of difference.

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Brits top of the chart

Britain is playing a rather peculiar role during this phase of the pandemic. On the one hand, they are the very fastest at vaccinating their population. On the other, within weeks they have become the country with the highest virus prevalence of all. The northwest of England and Scotland in particular are experiencing exponential increases.

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The Delta variant is spreading, especially among young people and the section of adults who have not been (fully) vaccinated. This variant, according to British researchers, is said to be 50% more contagious than the Alpha (or Kent) variant and spreads as much as twice as fast as the now-quashed vanilla SARS-CoV2 virus that emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.

Both on the heat map now going back to December last year and in the European vaccine race, we now find the island state back in the upper echelons.

Restrictions are easing up faster

Are precautions being taken too late in the Netherlands as was the case a few weeks back in December? On the contrary! The planned date for full reopening of society, except for the one and a half meter rule, was even pushed forward so that next week normal life should more or less return.

And based on the figures, this vacation attitude is not so strange either. The corona maps of the Netherlands have become so light in color in the past four weeks that the current legend (which has been the same since last fall) has become almost meaningless because the differences between municipalities are hardly noticeable anymore. In fact, at the moment there is little to worry about.

The difference with the end of May and the end of April can be called fairly colossal. With 144 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days, the municipality of Best was the municipality with the tenth highest virus prevalence. Whereas this figure at the end of April would have been good for a place in the top 10 with the fewest new cases

Fully vaccinated

For optimal protection against Covid-19, the lion’s share of vaccines require two shots. A few weeks after the second shot, the immune system is then sufficiently instructed to defend itself almost completely against every variant currently known. The vaccination race discussed earlier in this article actually gives a distorted picture because it does not make a distinction between first and second shots.

Therefore, for a more complete picture, a new shot chart was created showing the percentage of fully vaccinated people. Vaccinations have up tremendously in two months, but that does not mean the work is done. Hardly anywhere is there a vaccination rate above 50 percent. As a result, it is not, and will not, be fully virus-free in the coming months.

What now?

Is another grueling pandemic finale awaiting us? Possibly. But this exponential spike will have to get a lot more out of control than it was last fall to cause the same level of distress. The presence of the Delta variant and the role of vaccines have once again thrown the “rules of the game” into turmoil.

For now, it seems that a vaccine mostly prevents serious symptoms which means ICU admissions are not an issue. Yet this does not mean that infections and transmissions are a thing of the past. And of course the unvaccinated are exposed to the same risk as they were a year ago.

In order to capture this turnaround in an image, the last map of this penultimate Corona in Europe episode before a long summer break juxtaposes the municipal figures of the Benelux with those of the British districts. Are we vaccinating fast enough to stop this trend or will it be one big deja vu? We will know next month.

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The Benelux triangle

This unique map of the Benelux is part of a three-part series in which the Low Countries make forays into different directions. This week it was the turn of the West – and therefore Great Britain – and in the final episode of Corona in Europe next week we follow the Route du Soleil to the South, expect an elongated map of popular vacation countries.

Last week saw the first in this series in which the wisdom of the East played a prominent role. Here, both the Netherlands and Belgium stood out mainly in negative terms because of the far lower numbers recorded in Germany, which incidentally fell even further seven days later.

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