The number of COVID-19 infections is rising in the EU. Though it is difficult to make precise comparisons among member states, researchers can see some clear patterns.
People in the greater Brussels region will have to wear a protective face mask whenever they go out in public, whatever they are doing, unless they are partaking in sport as of Wednesday. New regulations also limit meetings to five individuals, and people also have to shop alone. So far, no other European capital has implemented such strict regulations. But Brussels, like Antwerp in northern Belgium, is one of the places with the highest rates of infection on the continent.
However, the number of new cases is still well below what was recorded in the early weeks of the outbreak when much of Europe went into lockdown.
Some areas more affected than others
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, there has been a clear trend over recent weeks. While there has been a general increase in infections, some parts of Europe have been disproportionately affected: Luxemburg, Belgium, some areas of northeastern Spain, the region around Lisbon, some regions of Romania and Bulgaria and Malta.
These figures reflect the situation about 14 days ago. The Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, which estimates the risk for the population in Germany and issues daily reports, has also warned that it is risky to travel to the Spanish capital, Madrid, where the incidence of COVID-19 has risen to 80 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week.
In Germany, the government has stipulated that stricter regulations should be put in place as soon as the number of cases surpasses 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in a region.
Some fear protests against coronavirus restrictions, like this one in Berlin, could spread the virus
More cases among younger people
Furthermore, according to the ECDC report, the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is not rising as much as might have been expected considering the number of infections; nor is the number of people needing intensive care.
Some researchers think that this could be because there are currently more younger people, whose immune systems are generally more able to fight off the virus, contracting COVID-19 than before.
The ECDC has pointed out that it is difficult to make comparisons between individual member states of the European Union as each conducts different amounts of tests and has different means of compiling data regarding infections.
Luxemburg, for a time, topped the chart of infections with over 150 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but it was also conducting the most tests. Now, the number of cases is decreasing. Overall, almost the entire population of 600,000 was tested, and now there are about 10,000 tests per 100,000 inhabitants each week. By comparison, in Germany, there are about 600 tests per 100,000. In Croatia, about 300 tests per 100,000 people are carried out.
In France, the average daily rate of infection is currently 1,600 and many cities, including the capital, Paris, have introduced compulsory mask-wearing rules in certain public spaces. Prime Minister Jean Castex recently called on people in France to remain vigilant and to observe physical distancing and other regulations brought in to curb the spread of the virus so as to avoid another lockdown — a measure he said no one wanted to experience again.
In Germany, the average number of daily infections is currently about 1,000. Health Minister Jens Spahn told German public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that this figure was "alarming" and it was important to be alert, as there had been a number of small outbreaks across the country. In the past 14 days, the number of new cases has risen to 13 per 100,000 inhabitants.
In Belgium and Malta that figure is 60. In Romania it is 80.
In its weekly report, the ECDC said the risk of an escalation of COVID-19 was "moderate" in EU states that still implement physical distancing regulations and tracked local infections, but "high to very high" in states where this was not the case.