As the vaccination rollout continues and lockdown measures start to ease in the UK, Europe is currently anticipating a third wave of the virus. Due to multiple variants, and a vaccine shortage, there’s has been a rise in infections across Europe, and there is a possibility that the UK could find itself in the same position. So, will there be a third wave of coronavirus in the UK, and how are the government preparing for this?
What’s happening in Europe?
As German news site Deutsche Welle (DW) reports, the seven-day incidence rate on the continent has risen considerably “since mid-February by 40%, with 240 new cases per 100,000” as of March 18. This is largely due to the spread of new variants of the original COVID-19 virus, including the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the UK. According to the Guardian, this version of the virus is believed to be 50% more transmissible.
Europe is also facing a vaccine shortage, meaning immunisation programmes in individual countries are slowing down. “There is not yet enough vaccine in Europe to stop the third wave through vaccination alone,” German health minister Jens Spahn told The Times. “Even if the deliveries from EU orders now come reliably, it will still take several weeks until the risk groups are fully vaccinated.”
This follows the recent hesitancy towards the AstraZeneca vaccine due to possible side effects. The European Medical Agency (EMA) has since declared the jab “safe and effective” to use, and several countries who had paused usage, including Germany and Spain, have started to use it again.
What has the government said?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently acknowledged signs of the third wave in Europe, and warned people in the UK that they should be “under no illusions”, and that a third wave could possibly “wash up on our shores as well.”
“I expect we will feel those effects in due course,” he continued. “That’s why we’re getting on with our vaccination program as fast as we can.”
Health Minister Lord Bethell also suggested that a ‘red list’ could be implemented to “our European neighbours” if the third wave becomes out of control. “I don’t know how [the third wave] will play out, and it’s certainly above my pay grade to speculate,” he told the House of Lords, “but we are all aware that the possibility lies that we will have to red list all of our European neighbours – but that would be done with huge regret.”