Europe’s COVID surge accelerates as Omicron spreads

Going into the northern hemisphere winter without much tangible data of what the Omicron variant is doing to the population, plus surging protests against any measure to contain the pandemic, Europe is facing a crisis as case numbers surge past 350,000 per day.

From Reuters:

Over 15 countries in Europe have reported confirmed cases of the new variant that has rattled financial markets. The European Union’s public health agency said on Thursday that the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months.

Even before the discovery of Omicron, Europe was pandemic’s epicentre with 66 out of every 100 new infections each day coming from European countries

The Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic has picked up speed in the second half of 2021. Europe has reported highest daily average of 359,000 new cases in second half as compared with highest daily cases of about 241,000 a day in the first half of the year.

Now come the restrictions and various border closures with each member state of the EU taking a different approach, with the added complexity of low vaccination rates, particularly in former Eastern bloc countries, hampering efforts to resist the spread of the new variant.

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Comments

  1. Merry Christmas folks. The only upside to Omicron is that this is a “pandemic of the Vaccinated” since the unvaccinated are barred from social events.
    Interesting to see that along with 70 of the 120 people at the Norway Christmas party who got infected, were another 50 people who had simply been dining at the restaurant and were not part of the private function crowd.
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2300503-omicron-variant-may-make-christmas-party-infection-risk-much-higher/

  2. Omicron has the ability to quickly generate large numbers of cases. So it better be benign.
    Over time, a given % increase in transmissibility is far worse than the same % increase in virulence.

    As Stalin noted, “Quantity has a quality all it’s own.”

    Some S Africa hospitals are now reporting that hospitalisations are doubling every day. That can’t continue for long.
    https://businesstech.co.za/news/trending/544116/south-african-hospital-admissions-doubling-every-day-as-omicron-cases-soar/

    Unfortunately the S Africa situation became muddied by the inexplicable dump of 18,000 old cases into the dataset at the same time omicron was announced.
    https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/investigations/covid19/omicron-panic-how-the-dumping-of-17-000-positive-tests-skewed-the-picture-of-sas-epidemic-trajectory-20211206

    These 18,000 cases were not omicron (as they were old cases) and didn’t turn up at hospitals (same reason). But the initial perception was that this surge was new omicron cases which did not require hospital care and hence omicron looked mild.

    It will be another week (at least) before we start to get reliable data about disease severity from Europe.

    The vaccines look to offer reasonable protection. The 40x reduction in lab measures of neutralisation reported elsewhere does NOT = vaccine is 40x less effective – the relationship between lab measures of neutralisation and clinical protection is non-linear.

    “First neutralisation data from @sigallab. Live virus, small number of sera (but obviously very important study). That’s 40 fold drop compared to D614G, essentially variant against which original vaccine efficacy was determined (NB does *not* mean 40 fold drop in efficacy).”

    Omicron looks likely to be a significant game changer – at least as much as delta. Timing could not really be worse for Europe and North America.

    Most of us can not really influence whether we get exposed, All we can control is whether we chose to avail ourselves of the (partial) protection available.

    • Where were those quarantine facilities? Its in Sydney now, only a matter of time as usual before it infects the rest of Australia. Feel like we are making the same mistakes over and over again. Putting too much faith in “high tech”/complex solutions vs low tech/definitely works solutions.

      If this turns out to be vaccine resistant and its severity is similar to the original COVID (we know transmission is worse) then it will be like 2019-2020 all over again. Back to square one. The hospitals will have it worse than last time. I hope I’m wrong.

      • “Where are those quarantine facilities?”

        Good question. Quarantine is a federal government responsibility and the LNP government has failed on every level. In the case of quarantine, the LNP has actively fought against building it.

        And to me, given the public health and safety issue of a pandemic, this is criminal negligence by the Morrison government.

      • blindjusticeMEMBER

        Government did learn from their mistakes, this time we’ll get infected good and proper so there’ll be no point in closing the borders

        • Sadly that cynicism is exactly what I think too. When I assume the worst possible thinking from our governments against most people they govern I’m rarely every surprised.

  3. Why are the boosters been dished out still Gen1. The argument for deploying this mRNA technology was speed of change. WTF are they doing?

    • They are talking about 100 days. That is extremely quick, and obviously restricts time available for testing.

      Its a 2-edged sword – as some want next-gen vaccines, others say gen 1 was not adequately tested.

    • The unfortunate truth is that there is every chance that the virus and all future variants can mutate faster than we can update vaccines, produce them en masse, and roll them out in a large population. The “problem of the commons” is real – its almost impossible to get everyone jabbed at exactly the same time across the globe which having open borders requires to control the virus. By the time you muster enough to do this, the virus has moved on already.

      When people say closed borders don’t stop it coming in, with Hotel Quarantine that may be true (although dedicated quarantine could achieve this IMO). But what it does do is slow it down so when each vaccine comes in the local population has all had the chance to take it. It allows you to limit the spread and contain it to smaller clusters which are much easier to manage, scale up vaccine production, and squash.

  4. In France at least despite 47k cases a day, Covid yards are empty, death # are still rounding errors. This covid wave is a dud.

    • Let’s hope you’re right. A benign but high transmissible strand means the world won’t need to lock down again. It is unfortunately too early to tell right now.

      • South Africa is saying a benign spread is excellent, giving immunity after infection for the unvaccinated.

      • Benign but highly transmissible was the expected (and hoped for) evolutionary path of Covid.

        A virus that kills all its hosts doesn’t survive very long.

        • Strictly speaking, COVID (any of them) doesn’t kill all or even many of its hosts.
          This is an important point when it comes to expectations of “decreasing virulence”.

    • You may be right.
      But S Africa is a young population, and likely has substantial immunity from earlier infections. Also summer.

      Its too early to know what will happen in a European winter with European demographics.

      One thing we have learned these 20 months is that different countries experience very different trajectories.

      Something sure spooked the WHO into designating omicron as a VOC. That step took months for delta, but only a few days for omicron.

      • Is it relevant to highlight South Africa’s prevalence of immunocompromise due to HIV/AIDS (13.1% total, 19% 15-49 age), the 4th highest in the world, in the same breath as their low median age?

      • Don’t let facts spoil the narrative my good friends. Letting in the new variant was a gamble for our own good. Remember we must live with the virus, even if it kills half of us.

      • The Omicron variant spread to Australia by fully vaccinated travellers. How’s that for a busted narrative?

  5. There is assumption that Omicron less deadly than Delta based on information coming out of South Africa. Whilst this may still end up being the case, it seems few people have considered that earlier strains of the virus ripped through the South African population with many of the vulnerable already being dead. We’ll need to see what happens in other countries before we know for certain.

  6. Denmark is a good one to watch as they sequence about 40% of their tests……..community infection with Omicron has just started and the increase is 50% a day………..if memory serves me it took 6 weeks for the first deaths when England first started infecting their population last year, so don’t talk mild until after the holiday break.( The new sub variant of Omicron has to be fully sequenced to find as it doesn’t have the S-Gene drop out. ) They went fully reliant on the vaccines……not a good idea.

    https://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1468296938755817477

    England looks like re-inventing the charge of the light brigade over the holidays

    https://twitter.com/chrischirp/status/1468154318327107588

    • Christina’s (@chrischirp) projections seem reasonable, and are very concerning. A rapid omicron surge superimposed on high (and slowly increasing) delta numbers.

      • Whatever credibility this scientist may or may not have is diminished by their blatant politicking and alarmist public comments like “Oh god” in response to graphical representation of data. I suppose maintaining political neutrality as a member of ‘independent SAGE’ can be dispensed with when one’s role in reality is to preach to the converted – the modern secular congregation who worship in fear and wonder at the altar of ‘The Science’.

        Anthony Fauci’s dangerous narcissism – Science can’t be above questioning

        • kiwikarynMEMBER

          It pays to remember that when Covid is over, all of these so called “experts” and “scientists” will go back to being as invisible and irrelevant as they were before, and they will fight that death for as long as possible. This is their 15 minutes of fame.

          • Making COVID ‘past tense’ will be no small task, it will require outright repudiation of an openly revolutionary, quasi-religious framework that has been instituted (and reinforced by) the global debt-based multinational state/corporate structures, particularly pharmaceutical and media, co-opting medical science, military/law enforcement and local employment in a co-ordinated, sweeping blitzkrieg on basic human rights, unilaterally rewriting the Western social contract and replacing it with a subscription service of access to privileges based on conformity to oppressive health edicts based on hidden advice and what’s known as ‘The Science’, something laypeople can not be trusted to understand, let alone debate.

            Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? It is an industry like no other, with profit margins to rival Google – and it was created by one of Britain’s most notorious tycoons: Robert Maxwell (2017, Guardian – Robert Maxwell is the father of none other than Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein consort)
            Consider some of the garbage that has been published in the Lancet recently, including EcoHealth Alliance/Daszak’s letter to throw scientists off the trail of the lab leak theory in 2020. ‘Science’ with a capitalised ‘S’ is not neutral and has not been for some time.

          • It is odd how people with claims on providing objective truth often get really rich, I have to admit. The Church, Rupert Murdoch and news providers, it is an interesting sociological pattern that shouldn’t be ignored, even in the case of science.

  7. Most worrying is that Martin Armstrongs computer which forecasts a thousand markets a day for a start, has long forecast 2022 as a or rathe the pandemic.

    • He certainly is an amazing man. Walks on the moon, a great trumpet player, and now I find out he is also a computer programmer!

  8. If hospitalisations are starting to increase in S Africa and elsewhere and it no longer appears quite so benign, this is part of the explanation.

    https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/investigations/covid19/omicron-panic-how-the-dumping-of-17-000-positive-tests-skewed-the-picture-of-sas-epidemic-trajectory-20211206

    You really need to look at this article and see the 2 graphs
    1 shows what really happened
    1 shows what we thought to be happening

    Alternatively go to your favourite tracker and see this one day spike of 18,000 cases.

    So 18,000 gets added to the denominator (cases)
    Nothing is added to the numerator (hospitalisations) as they were historic cases)
    And so the % hospitalised gets artificially reduced. A lot.

    S Africa is often difficult to follow. Many around the world took a pragmatic approach – “well whatever Omicron is doing, it isn’t generating hospitalisations, so it can’t be too bad.”
    Well, now we know. 18,000 old cases (going back to 2020) won’t generate new hospitalisations.

    Authorities have apologised and said it was unfortunate and bad timing…….

    Professor Tom Moultrie, director of the Centre for Actuarial Research (CARe) at the University of Cape Town, works closely with testing data and told News24 that he did not believe the introduction of the historic tests were mendacious.
    “It is an effort to be more transparent, and it should be commended. It’s just a case of really bad timing,” he said.
    Moultrie said the impression created by the reporting of the cases just as the announcement was made regarding the discovery of a worrying new variant was “deeply unfortunate”.

    Professor Alex van den Heever, a public health systems expert and the chair for Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at Wits University, echoed calls made from early in the local epidemic that health officials needed to report Covid-19 data by date of testing or sample collection.

    Join the dots
    1. The timing of this data dump seems very unlikely to be coincidental. Same country where omicron was first discovered. Data dump just 2 days before discovery.
    2. By and large, the media is not reporting this – perhaps they don’t recognise / understand
    3. WHO announces omicron as a VOC of concern in record time
    4. Borders closed very quickly

    Did authorities realise a wolf was being dressed as a sheep?

    • Two takeaways if that’s true:

      – The dump of cases significantly lowers the (Hospitalizations/Cases) average ratio by increasing the denominator substantially.
      – The curve of growth is on that exponential R trajectory we all know by now rather than trading around a band.

      Both are bad it seems. Everyone is hoping/praying/etc that this one won’t be as bad as every other variant, but even if it is the same as the least worst of the last three we have been exposed it with the transmission rate it is the worst to date. IMO we should of kept the borders shut – our domestic cave looked nice.

    • Perhaps global ‘authorities’ were concerned about the size of the protests in continental Europe against mandates and lockdowns and resistance to/waning enthusiasm for boosters and child vaccinations. Going on for weeks now, just like the mass protests in Melbourne and Sydney and other capitals. Also completely censored unreported by corporate(state) media. This is turning into a ‘War’ like the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on Cancer. War is about business. The movie Network had it right:

      “The world is a business.” (Network, Youtube, 4m44s)

      “It’s the Individual that’s finished.” (Network, Youtube, 2m45s)

  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxkb2yhdLiA

    This is complex, but important.
    This mathematician in UK analysed UK vaccine data and is suggesting that vaccines are not saving lives.

    Let me say I DON’T completely agree with him. At the grass roots, there is zero doubt that vaccinations do protect you if you get Covid.

    But he could be on to something.

    He compared all-cause mortality in vaccinated V unvaccinated. Which is appropriate – the important question is “Am I more or less likely to get seriously ill or die with this vaccine?” I think that is the key question for most of us.

    What he found was that within each given age group, mortality in the non-vaccinated group increased in the 2 weeks after the vaccine was offered to that age group.
    How could that come about? How could not receiving a vaccine increase your mortality over the next 2 weeks.

    Well his argument is as follows
    1. The studies were designed to test for reduced Covid infections in the vaccinated
    2. It takes 14 days for a vaccine to exert its protective effect – nothing new there, that has long been understood
    3. Therefore, you were only counted as being vaccinated 14 days after getting the vaccine. The manufactures didn’t want Covid cases in the vaccinated group within the first 14 days, on the (sort of) legitimate grounds that the vaccine had not had a chance to work. So it was unfair to test if a vaccine was working before it had a chance to work.
    4. This misallocation could mean that some non-Covid deaths that occurred in people within 14 days of vaccination were counted in the non-vaccinated group, and this could be the explanation why the non-vaccinated group had a period of increased mortality after the vaccine.

    This sort of reanalysing data is complex and fraught. In trying to correct some errors. you can easily introduce others. I certainly do not completely agree with his conclusion.
    I feel the vaccines are pretty safe.
    I had no hesitation being vaccinated, and little hesitation getting boosted back in October (pre-omicron)
    They do have more side effects than many vaccines, and long term data is obviously lacking
    However on balance I feel that it was safer for me to be vaccinated than non-vaccinated

    But it is important to understand that die can be subtly loaded (non-intentionally or otherwise), and that this bias can change the perception of what is going on.
    This happens all the time in medical studies. All the time.

    • Thanks steve, much appreciated. While I understand your point of view, the lack of long term safety data along with the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt around short term adverse vaccine effects lead me to a different conclusion about getting jabbed. Not to mention the low personal risk that Covid presents to me as far as I can tell.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Don’t you need 2 dose and 4-12 weeks in between them? Every country is different in how it regard someone as ‘vaccinated’, so without access to the raw data it is hard to make any judgement.

  10. One could interpret that first chart as indicating that daily new cases are much worse now with the vaccines in play than they were this time last year with no vaccines. There is evidently not as much vaccine takeup ac\ross Europe as Australia’s world beating 90%+, but not insignificant rates either.

    • PalimpsestMEMBER

      That’s quite possible. Vaccination seems to reduce the R number but not down to 1 or below. If vaccinated feel safer, then they will contribute to the spread if they don’t support distancing or masks. They may spread it slightly less, but there are more of them. There’s a big difference between being infected and serious outcomes.

      As for Omicron, the only concrete data is the Norway party where all participants were double vaxxed and no hospitalisations. However, that may not mean much – they sound like they were business aged and therefore probably not in the higher risk groups. There’s hope that vaccination V1 still works because although the antibody specificity is low, the T-cells remain primed. Doesn’t stop breakthrough infection but may prevent serious outcomes. Or, the virus is milder. We don’t have good research numbers yet to tell if it is either or both. We just are hoping.

      Interesting Guardian article on an anti-arthritis drug. Report on patients having minimal response to vaccination, and immune suppression may be allowing the disease to get a better hold. Largely anecdotal so far.

      Finally, arguably the reason that COVID wasn’t becoming less virulent in the West may be because it didn’t kill victims outright. A person is walking, talking and living life normally while infectious. They aren’t laid low until symptoms grow. So they are effective transmitters, and the disease has no selective pressure to kill or not kill them afterwards. If, however, there is a large reservoir of HIV patients, then the disease could kill them too quickly if it doesn’t become more gentle. Is this reality is yet to be determined. We don’t know if Omicron is benign or not. I’m sure it can beef up its game after a while circulating in US and UK.