Is the worst of the pandemic over for Europe?
Almost a year ago, on March 11, 2020, WHO declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic. At that time, 90% of cases were concentrated in only four countries, three being in Asia—China, South Korea, and Iran. Italy was the first European country to be crippled by the COVID-19 mayhem, which then swept through the entire continent and beyond in successive waves. European countries now rank high in the list of deaths and cases of COVID-19 per capita. In the first wave, western European countries recorded high excess mortality rates, whereas eastern Europe escaped unscathed due to early travel restrictions and lockdowns in the region. This trend shifted in the second wave, and eastern European countries have now recorded even higher excess mortality rates. As vaccination campaigns gain momentum across Europe, many people are starting to believe that the worst of the pandemic is now over. However, the emergence of new virus variants, some of which may be more contagious or deadly, is a sobering reminder that the course ahead is still challenging, and that a careful, well balanced, pragmatic implementation plan is needed to leave the worst of the pandemic behind for Europe.