The question now is whether countries can curb the latest wave of infections without resorting to tough shutdowns that have devastated economies, disrupted education and weighed on mental health.
Experts say it is possible … but authorities cannot avoid all restrictions and must increase vaccination rates.
“I think the era of locking people in their homes is over because we now have tools to control COVID – tests, vaccines and therapies,” said Devi Sridhar, president of global public health at the University of Edinburgh.
“So I hope people will do the things they have to do, like put on a mask.”
Many European countries are now using COVID passes – proof of full vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test result – to access places like bars and restaurants.
However, experts have warned that passes can give a false sense of security, as fully vaccinated people can still be infected – although their chances of dying or becoming seriously ill are considerably lower.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government is reportedly considering a limited two-week lockdown, as we reported earlier, and Germany is considering legislation that would pave the way for further measures.
âWe have a real emergency right now,â said Christian Drosten, head of the virology department at Charite Hospital in Berlin, who has started canceling scheduled surgeries.