Monday, July 5, 2021

On covid-19, the recklessness of UK's politicians poses a continued threat to Europe (EN)

Notwithstanding its successful vaccination campaign (which has been often put in contrast to EU's comparatively sluggish record), the United Kingdom is currently suffering another wave of the coronavirus pandemic, driven by the very contagious 'delta' (a.k.a. 'Indian') variant.

How this came to be is well known, and clearly linked to political decisions made by the UK Government. But the consequences could be very dire for continental Europe.

Indeed (see map below), the countries in the EU currently most affected by the new surge in cases are exactly those who recently welcomed UK tourists with few restrictions or none at all: Portugal and Spain. From there, as recent history demonstrates, it's only a matter of time before the fresh pandemic wave sweeps across the continent.

After last spring's third wave of covid-19 in Europe was driven by the 'alpha' variant of the virus that originated in England, it's now the second time in half a year that the UK is the gateway for a pandemic wave affecting the continent. The main explanation for this recurrent hazard is the continued recklessness in managing this health crisis by the British authorities.

And nor is it set to end.

In spite of the exponential rise in cases and the warnings from health experts, the Prime Minister and the new Health Secretary are determined to lift on 19 July all the remaining measures designed to slow down the propagation of the virus. The political pressure to go ahead with 'freedom day' is enormous, not least because the government has lost credibility in enforcing restrictions after senior political figures were seen flouting lockdown and social distancing rules. But doing so creates serious risks of accelerating the emergence of new dangerous variants of the virus.

The number of covid-19 deaths in recent weeks has remained low in the UK, as apparently the vaccines are effective at reducing the severity of the disease, if not completely its propagation. The future, however, remains uncertain, and the policies pursued by the UK are magnifying the risks - e.g. of more aggressive variants that escape vaccines. 

For the EU, however, things look more certain. With comparatively lower vaccination rates (even if catching up lately), it is set to face more severe cases and deaths in the coming period, as the 'delta' variant takes over.

To be sure, the UK will suffer itself a non-negligible impact from the new wave of the pandemic; and Spain and Portugal only have themselves to blame for opening too wide and hastily to British tourists.

Still, as with the previous wave, we face a recurrent state of affairs where the UK's botched response to the pandemic creates an ominous situation for the entire continent.

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