Model study: ‘The burden of covid-19 in Europe remains high for the time being’

It may come as no surprise, but many European countries may still face a significant burden of hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19, mainly due to lower vaccination coverage and/or older populations. Ongoing non-pharmaceutical interventions and efforts to achieve a high vaccination coverage therefore remain necessary, argue Lloyd Chapman et al (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) following their study with data from nineteen countries, which appeared as a preprint on the medRxiv- site.

According to their – mind you – modeling calculations, Covid-19 could cause another 300,000 deaths in Europe if all restrictions are lifted and contacts between individuals return to prepandemic levels. The pandemic could also lead to more than 900,000 hospital admissions. For example, about eight in a thousand people in Romania, where vaccination coverage is relatively low, could still be hospitalized, compared to less than one in a thousand in England. In absolute terms, about 280 thousand people would still be hospitalized in Germany, which has a significant older population, compared to 6,300 in Denmark. Except for Romania, where vaccination coverage is low, countries with a combination of lower vaccine coverage among older age groups, relatively low previous exposure and/or older populations (the researchers cite: Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Slovenia) are the worst in hospital admissions and deaths.

Extreme worst case scenario

Of course, this model study has its limitations – the authors themselves admit this. Their estimates are based on the assumption that all anti-infection restrictions have been lifted, and furthermore assume that everyone in the population will be exposed. Feel free to call it an extreme worst-case scenario for the shorter term. On the other hand, they have not taken into account the possible arrival of new virus variants that can escape the immunity built up by previous disease or vaccination. Nor with the impact of declining immunity on serious illness.

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