Wednesday, August 17

2021: a year of ups and downs in the battle against COVID-19

January 2021, a year after the first person died from Covid-19, most of Europe is on lockdown and restrictions have been tightened.

The encouraging news is the authorization by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) of the Biontech Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

The first to be vaccinated are the most fragile healthcare workers and the elderly, but the vaccination campaign in the EU is getting off to a slow start, stalled by supply disruptions.

Hopes Shattered by Delta

In fact, the pandemic, far from disappearing, is just beginning.

A new variant, called Delta, is detected in India in late 2020. It is more communicable and engulfs the country in a second deadly wave.

Hospitals are overloaded and there are not enough oxygen cylinders.

Delta is rapidly spreading around the world.

Living with coronavirus

In June, the European Parliament gives the green light to the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

Proves that the holder is vaccinated, has recovered from a COVID infection, or has had a recent negative test result.

The aim is to facilitate free movement. Over time, most European countries introduce a health pass and make it mandatory to enter most entertainment venues.

Freedom versus security

In protest, tens of thousands of people take to the streets of the main European cities.

They march against the mandates of health passes and vaccines.

The anti-vax movement feeds on a broader distrust of governments and conspiracy theories sold online, mainly by far-right organizations.

The way to freedom

Restrictions across Europe are gradually being lifted, Britain celebrates it in July with the so-called “Freedom Day”.

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Mood improves and at the end of August the EU reaches a milestone: 70% of adults are fully vaccinated.

However, there are caveats of celebrating too early.

“But the pandemic is not over and we must remain vigilant,” warns Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. “So first of all, we need a lot more Europeans to get vaccinated quickly to avoid a new wave of infections and stop the emergence of new variants.”

One step forward, two back. In autumn, Europe once again became the epicenter of the pandemic.

Covid-19 cases skyrocket in Eastern European countries, where vaccination rates are low, but Germany and Austria are also battling the virus.

The vast majority of intensive care patients are not vaccinated.

The ever-changing virus

Then the Omicron variant, a potentially even more dangerous new mutation from Covid 19, is identified in South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says it should be a wake-up call that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue.

Existing vaccines provide some protection against Omicron, but the new variant spreads even more easily than Delta.

By the end of 2021, countries are back in competition for booster doses and scientists are searching for more effective vaccines.

It seems that the race is far from over.

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