Europe at a tipping point? Coronavirus gloom deepens as vaccine rollout lags, COVID resurges

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference on the EU response to the COVID. Credit: EPA
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference on the EU response to the COVID. Credit: EPA

Contagion is rising again in much of the EU, despite months of restrictions on daily life, as more-virulent virus strains outpace vaccinations. A mood of gloom and frustration is settling on the continent, and governments are caught between their promises of progress and the bleak epidemiological reality.

Governments and public-health experts say only a combination of accelerated vaccinations and gradual reopening can defeat Covid-19’s latest rebound. But the EU’s efforts continue to suffer from its slowness in procuring and approving vaccines, production delays at vaccine makers, and bureaucratic holdups in injecting available doses.

So far, there is nothing like the acute hospital crisis that overwhelmed healthcare systems in parts of Italy and Spain a year ago. Instead, the bloc’s public-health crisis has become chronic.

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[French Health Minister Olivier Veran said] that variants now account for more than 70% of new infections in France. Pressure is rising again on intensive-care units in the Paris region, where he said a new patient is admitted every 12 minutes. Mr. Veran said he expected authorities to begin transferring scores of patients out of the Paris area to hospitals in regions that have fewer cases. Nationwide, ICUs are nearly 80% full.

“It’s a situation that I would qualify as tense and worrying,” Mr. Veran said.

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