I would have preferred to wind up this pandemic column without any particularly nerve-wracking virus perils this summer. Things actually seemed to be heading that way last month, what with lovely substantial drops in all those pesky infection rates across the continent. A jab in the bag, celebratory flags flying, summer of love, vacation can begin – right? Yes, as a matter of fact, it can. This is not because there is no news to report, but because the editor on duty is ready for a break after a year and a half of corona visualizations.
But not before we first wrap up this column, which has been running for almost a year, with plenty of spectacular visuals. Because of the even higher amount of visualizations and maps than usual, this finale is spread out over two articles. The first part focuses on the perspective taken from an international and continental level.
We kick off this scintillating swan song with an animation that summarizes the spring of 2021 with all the charts from the current series in a row and, below them, the heat map dating back to December.
Night and day
The good news is that on average, since the existence of this column, the map of Europe has never been as light in color as this final one. All the same, this celebration seems to be of a temporary nature. What started in Britain and spilled over to Portugal this month now seems to be following suit in more countries popular with tourists. Cyprus and parts of Spain in particular stand out in this respect. The corona prevalence between now and two months ago differs like night and day in those countries.
The parts of Europe that were able to take it easy at the end of April are now once more experiencing sharp increases. What is also striking is that the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain were also the first to have to deal with the peak originating from the Alpha of Kent variant, which has by now been virtually driven out by the twice as infectious Delta strain from India. Will Western Europe follow this trend? Yes. But this will not happen overnight. The Netherlands and neighboring countries have a few precious extra weeks to vaccinate as many people as possible. Fully vaccinated people seem to be quite well protected against this strain.
How are things going with vaccinations? You have been able to follow how vaccinations have been progressing each week in this column since early January. Below is the latest provisional update on the European jab race. The animation shows the absolute number of shots and does not distinguish between first and second shots. To shed more light on this, an interactive map showing the proportion of fully vaccinated people among the population is also shown below.
Caught between two fires
For the time being, continental Europe seems to be enjoying few acute pandemic issues thanks to vaccines and (still) comparatively low rates of the microscopic Delta scourge. The past year and a half have taught us that things really can’t turn around within an incredibly short period of time. Or that, if you scrutinize hundreds of European regional areas every week to see what is exactly going on, surges are by no means predictable
The British Isles, by the way, are not the only place where the virus is gaining ground. On the other fringes of Europe, too, the end of June is anything but an all-clear. In fact, the continent’s fiercest hotbed is not, as you might expect, in the northeast of England or Scotland. As of this week, it is mandatory for some Russians to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The Putin government took this draconian measure because the number of applicants for the Sputnik-V vaccine has been disappointing. Plus the Moscow capital have had to register more than 50,000 new corona infections in one week.
The corona map of Europe has been expanded even further this week for the finale so that all of continental Europe can be seen. Turkey, where the pandemic is still not exactly under control, also stands out here.
The data rankings
In the accompanying table, most areas are sorted by the number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days. Ther is one place in Europe has managed to keep the virus out completely since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Spitsbergen, after almost 18 months of corona ravaging through Europe, no one has ever tested positive. This makes this remote island, with about 2,000 inhabitants, the only place in Europe that has so far remained completely virus-free. For those looking for a virus-free vacation in a place below the Arctic Circle, there is a wide variety of destinations to choose from in Central and Eastern Europe. Check out all the European countries sorted according to the number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants between 18 and 24 June.
The unlucky continent
Although this column has focused almost exclusively on corona in Europe, which is logical given the name, the pandemic is also rampaging across the rest of the planet. It is common knowledge that East Asia and Australia have things pretty much under control. Yet there are also places where things are considerably worse than in Europe. While that 300 or 400 infections per 100,000 heads in Moscow or Manchester is quite a lot, for the most macabre numbers we have to go to South America, where winter is just around the corner.
The poisoned cup for Latin America still seems to be overflowing. While Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru – the latter country with the highest mortality rate worldwide – seem to have dodged the bullet this week, almost everywhere on the continent all hands are on deck. Colombia is in the worst shape, with the capital Bogota as the absolute standout. Here, between June 19 and 25, nearly 73,000 residents tested positive for corona. To end this continental column, I decided to zoom in on the situation there. Even the successful vaccination campaign in Uruguay and Chile was unable to prevent a new autumn wave of infections.
Our autumn surge
As was the case during our autumn surge, most governments in these countries have no choice but to lock down society and hope that the number of infections can be reduced in this way. Yet such high numbers have also been the norm for us for months in a row. What’s more telling, this is what it looked like with the same legend during the peak of the autumn surge during the closing days of November.
One more thing …
Are we going to have as wretched an autumn as South America? Hopefully not. The fact that vaccination shots are effective against serious symptoms or life-threatening situations and offer full protection can really make a difference here. In that regard, we are lucky with the time of year. Yet we thought that the pandemic was over last summer as well. In any event, my column Corona in Europe will be over and done with after this weekend.
In the second part, which really brings things to a close, the visualizations, the perspective from the Netherlands and the summer vacations play a more prominent role. The real finale will be online later this weekend.
Done with corona
But why is this column actually stopping? Mainly for a practical reason. Compiling this weekly column takes dozens of hours of my time and energy each and every week. What’s more, by being on top of these figures time and again, there is no room for a corona-free mindset.
Over the coming months, I want to give myself some space to get out of that pandemic mode, which means completely socially distancing myself from the subject. The hundreds of hours put into this have given me a treasure trove of new skills, but also demanded a lot of my energy in the most intense period for humankind after World War II.
Have you been enjoying the weekly installments, slide charts, jab races and interpretations? And would you like to give me, as an author (or for some other reason), a financial token of your appreciation? Then as of now, you are more than welcome to make a a voluntary donation or a tip or vacation gift through this Backme.org-link.
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