As families and the hospitality industry prepare for what should be the first mostly “normal” Christmas since 2019, the question is whether it will be cancelled – and if so, when. The risks are certainly increasing, with the level of infections across Europe climbing so steeply that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of another half a million unnecessary deaths from Covid by March.
The WHO is “very worried” about the trends. Much of the concern derives from disappointingly low vaccination rates in some countries, the lack of vaccination among younger people in many places, and a sense of complacency that has taken hold as the pandemic has faded from headlines. Now, though, governments across the continent are being pushed into imposing restrictions on freedom, compulsory vaccination and lockdowns.
Vaccination can, in the long term and with complete herd immunity, protect communities completely, to all practical purposes, from infectious diseases – but participation has to be very high indeed. Vaccines can and do reduce infection, illness, deaths, and pressure on health services, even without herd immunity and eradication, but if vaccination rates are as low as they have been in parts of Austria, for example, then the defences will be much weaker.
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