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COVID-19 STATS

Europe tops 100 million Covid cases

Europe has recorded over 100 million coronavirus cases, more than a third of all infections worldwide, since the start of the pandemic, an AFP tally Saturday showed.

Health workers stands near a Covid-19 rapid antigen testing area near The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Health workers stands near a Covid-19 rapid antigen testing area near The Eiffel Tower in Paris. France alone has recorded over one million new cases over the past week. BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

The continent has once again become the pandemic’s epicentre in recent months, and is battling an upsurge of cases spurred on by the highly transmissible Omicron strain of the virus.

The European region, including 52 countries and territories from the Atlantic coast to Azerbaijan and Russia, has recorded 100,074,753 infections of Covid-19 over the past two years, an AFP tally of official figures showed at 1845 GMT on Saturday.

That is equivalent to more than a third of the 288,279,803 cases declared worldwide since the outbreak of the pandemic in late 2019 in China.

Of the European infections, more than 4.9 million have been reported over the past seven days alone, with 17 out of 52 countries or territories beating their previous record of most cases in a single week.

France alone has recorded more than one million new cases over the past week, which is equivalent to 10 percent of all positive cases it has announced since the start of the pandemic.

The countries with the highest ratio of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the world were all in Europe. Denmark scored worst with 2,045, followed by Cyprus with 1,969 and Ireland with 1,964.

AFP’s calculations are based on official figures, but some infections could have gone undetected, for example, if patients were asymptomatic.

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Covid-related deaths are, however, decreasing in Europe.

Europe recorded on average 3,413 coronavirus deaths a day over the past week, a seven percent drop from the previous week. At its worst, that average saw 5,735 deaths a day in January last year.

People on the European continent are now, on the whole, more vaccinated than the worldwide average. 

Sixty-five percent of Europeans are partially vaccinated, while 61 percent are fully vaccinated — more than 58 and 49 percent respectively worldwide, according to the “Our World in Data” website.

The below chart from Our World in Data shows the proportion of people who are fully vaccinated in countries covered by The Local.

Taking into account excess mortality linked to Covid-19, the World Health Organisation estimates the overall death toll worldwide could be two to three times higher.

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COVID-19 RULES

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

The health ministry is reviewing its quarantine requirements as the country's Covid-19 health situation improved again this week, according to Italian media reports.

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

Italy has taken a more cautious approach to Covid in recent months than many of its European neighbours, keeping strict isolation rules in place for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

But this could be set to change in the coming days, according to media reports, as one of Italy’s deputy health ministers said the government is about to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic cases.

“Certainly in the next few days there will be a reduction in isolation for those who are positive but have no symptoms,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in a TV interview on the political talk show Agorà on Tuesday.

“We have to manage to live with the virus,” he said.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that the compulsory isolation period could be reduced to 48 hours for those who test positive but remain asymptomatic – provided they subsequently test negative after the day two mark.

Under Italy’s current rules, vaccinated people who test positive must stay in isolation for at least seven days, and unvaccinated people for ten days – regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

At the end of the isolation period, the patient has to take another test to exit quarantine. Those who test negative are free to leave; those who remain positive must stay in isolation until they get a negative test result, up to a maximum of 21 days in total (at which point it doesn’t matter what the test result says).

Health ministry sources indicated the new rules would cut the maximum quarantine period to 15 or even 10 days for people who continue to test positive after the initial isolation period is up, La Stampa said.

The government is believed to be reviewing the rules as the latest official data showed Covid infection and hospitalisation rates were slowing again this week, as the current wave of contagions appeared to have peaked in mid-July.

However, the national Rt number (which shows the rate of transmission) remained above the epidemic threshold, and the number of fatalities continued to rise.

The proposed changes still aren’t lenient enough for some parties. Regional authorities have been pushing for an end to quarantine altogether, even for people who are actively positive – an idea Costa appears sympathetic to.

“The next step I think is to consider the idea of even eliminating the quarantine, perhaps by wearing a mask and therefore being able to go to work,” he told reporters.

“We must review the criteria for isolation, to avoid blocking the country again”.

At least one health expert, however, was unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Dr Nino Cartabellotta, head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine group Gimbe, tweeted on Tuesday: “There are currently no epidemiological or public health reasons to abolish the isolation of Covid-19 positives”

Massimo Andreoni, professor of Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Tor Vergata University of Rome, was more ambivalent about the prospect.

The isolation requirement for asymptomatic cases should be “revised somewhat in the light of the epidemiological data”, he told reporters, but urged “a minimum of precaution, because the less the virus circulates and the fewer severe cases there are, the fewer new variants arise”.

When the question was last raised at the end of June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was firmly against the idea of lifting quarantine requirements for people who were Covid positive.

“At the moment such a thing is not in question,” he told newspaper La Repubblica at the time. “Anyone who is infected must stay at home.”

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