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Whereas last week the first traces of the approaching second corona wave became visible, the second corona wave in Europe is now unmistakable. Across the whole continent, measures have been tightened to stop the spread of COVID-19.

News of rising figures and new restrictions arrives in quick succession. The pandemic, still raging across the world at full strength, seems to be returning to Europe this summer. This is what this revival of the coronavirus looked like in the past week.

New Covid-19 diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants between 17-7 and 24-7

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The subnational COVID-19 map of Europe between 17 and 24 July /Jelmer Visser

For comparison: the same card of the second week of July

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The subnational COVID-19 map of Europe between 10 and 17 July /Jelmer Visser

Second wave emerging in Europe

Between 17 and 24 July, the surge gained momentum. Spain and Belgium experienced the strongest increase in Western Europe with the largest increase in the northern Spanish region of Aragon where 2,133 new corona patients were diagnosed. The neighboring regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Navarre are also currently Code Red. The call is clear: Stay at home and only come out when strictly necessary.

Even in Belgium there is hardly any relaxed holiday atmosphere anymore. Especially in the city of Antwerp and surrounding areas, the misery is great. Last week, the mayor of the second largest city in Flanders obliged face masks in shopping streets and called on citizens to limit the number of social contacts to ten. More and more municipalities are suspending the earlier relaxations of lockdown measures. The cumulative number of corona patients in the country grew in the past week from 63,238 to 64,824. And now the counter stands at 65,727. As a result, growth is accelerating.

In France, the regions of Ile de France in Paris and Grand Est are particularly affected by the virus, with a swathe of infections extending to Luxembourg, which has been hit hard. The growth of the virus in Flanders is also noticeable in the Netherlands: Here, South Holland and to a lesser extent Zeeland have recorded a much higher increase than the other provinces. In the entire north and east of the country there is relatively little going on at the moment.

The new wave of corona patients also affects other countries: Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic all show up darker on the map in the third week of July. The latter launched a pro-active lockdown policy inspired by Taiwan just in the spring. Now the figures in the capital city of Prague, among other places, are rising at a furious pace.

Since the end of April, the figures have been falling in almost the whole of Europe. In the animation below, the increase per 100,000 inhabitants between 29 May and 24 July is charted using nine diagnostic maps.

The nine week maps from 29 May to 24 July /Jelmer Visser

Macabre revival from the valley

Sweden, where there was never really a lockdown, never had a valley. Ironically, after the arrival of summer, the red seems to be moving away from the quirky Scandinavian country. In the Balkans it has been quite serious in terms of corona infections since the beginning of June. Countries like Bosnia, Serbia, Romania and Macedonia have seen some of the biggest increases on the continent for some time now. Furthermore, an increase that started in the southeast of Poland seems to have spread to the rest of the country and neighboring Czech Republic.

In a number of countries there is actually no increase at all. Norway, Germany, Ireland, Finland and Italy seem to be suffering the least from this second wave so far. Greece, Hungary and the Baltic States hardly even noticed the first wave in the spring. Of all the countries in Europe, Slovakia is the country with the least corona patients. The Central European country with 5.5 million inhabitants has only 2,179 positive diagnoses after five months of coronation. The mortality rate? It’s 28. Per 100,000? No, 28 in total.

Corona-free summer holidays can finally be put on ice. In most countries, lockdowns were eased in June. This first series of relaxations didn’t really lead to alarming figures in most Western European countries. How did Europe get out of the lockdown? The map below shows how the lockdown measures are currently suffocating. If you slide the time slider, you can see how the continent locked down in March and loosened the reins step-by-step from May onwards.

More tests, more corona?

But diagnoses alone do not yet constitute a second wave. After all, on this basis it cannot be ruled out that the increase is the result of a more extensive testing. The fact that this area has scaled up considerably since March should come as no surprise.

Nevertheless, there is another method to demonstrate a second wave: the proportion of positive corona tests in the total quantity. According to the WHO, a country tests sufficient if less than 1% of this indicates a Covid-19 infection. This is visualized by Our World in Data on the map below.

Many countries are still on the safe side but this seems to be a matter of time. In the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, for example, this percentage has been growing steadily in recent weeks.

Same misery as in spring?

Will we get overcrowded ICUs and thicker newspapers again because of the number of obituaries? That’s hard to say. There are now fewer new cases of the virus than in February. Also, the population is on guard and there are still measures in place to prevent a similar new disaster.

Yet there is still very little that can be predicted about admissions and deaths. These figures come with a considerable delay because it takes some time before someone becomes dangerously ill or the virus gets a foothold in places where many vulnerable seniors are located. They often catch the virus from someone who has no or hardly any symptoms of the disease.

It is expected that by August these figures will have increased, but it is very difficult to predict how large this increase will be. Europe is the first continent where the second wave seems to take hold.

For now, all you can do is limit your social contacts, stay at home in case of any symptoms, keep your distance and consider voluntarily putting on a mask in public indoor spaces, even if the law does not require it.

Are you going or on holiday abroad? Then be careful and keep an eye on updates on the virus. Even in countries where there is hardly any corona at the moment, things can change quickly. After all, the Netherlands went from “Nothing wrong” to “Big alarm” in just three days.