Nearly 1 million COVID-19 infections daily as Omicron wave engulfs Europe

A COVID-19 patient on Ecmo (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) remains unconscious, at Bichat Hospital, AP-HP, in Paris, on Thursday, April 22, 2021 (AP Photo / Lewis Joly)

The working class faces the urgent need to mobilize to impose health policies to stop an unprecedented tidal wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping across Europe. Capitalist governments operate with open contempt for human life. Even as the Omicron variant pushes infections to record levels and threatens to overwhelm hospitals, they are adopting minimal restrictions and pushing to limit quarantine periods for people who are sick or exposed to the virus.

Yesterday France recorded 208,099 new cases of COVID-19, Great Britain 183,037, Spain 100,760, Italy 98,030, Greece 28,828 and Portugal 26,867. These are all record numbers. , which have doubled in just two or three days. The other countries with record numbers are Denmark with 22,023, Ireland with 16,428 and Switzerland with 16,760 on Wednesday. In Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said new infections are massively underreported and are two or three times higher than the 40,042 cases reported on Wednesday, a 45% increase from Tuesday.

Official statistics with more than 830,000 new infections in Europe yesterday are blatant underestimates: the testing capacity has been reached in several countries, which can no longer keep up with the contagion. The test positivity rate is over 10% in Germany, Norway, Spain and the Netherlands, and over 5% in the UK, France, Italy, Turkey and Denmark. According to the WHO, a test positive rate of more than 5% means that the virus infects many more people than is diagnosed.

Walk-in PCR testing was not available in England and Northern Ireland on Wednesday, UK pharmacies reported shortages of lateral flow testing and the Republic of Ireland’s positivity rate was 45.22 %. In the deadly wave of the Delta in India, as hospitals collapsed, that rate peaked at 22.3%.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned: “I am very concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible [and] circulating at the same time as Delta, led to a tsunami of cases. He added that this will put “immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse.”

Operating with open disregard for human life, European governments are abandoning all claims of limiting the spread of the virus. Only stopping non-essential production and in-person schooling can stop the massive disease outbreak currently underway and limit the resulting spike in deaths. Yet they outright reject such measures and relax quarantine restrictions, in order to keep enough workers at work even if large numbers fall ill.

Yesterday, French Minister of Health Olivier Véran told the National Assembly that France was facing an Omicron “tidal wave”. Currently, 2% of French people have COVID-19 and, according to Véran, 10% have been recently exposed. Nonetheless, although he admitted that hospital admissions increased 49% in just one week, he claimed there was “no longer any correlation with the increased circulation of the virus”, implying that France could be spared from an increase in severe cases and deaths even if COVID-19 infections increase.

Speaking yesterday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez all but admitted that his decision not to take action against the virus reflected his priority of corporate profits over human life, saying it reflected the need “to balancing public health, mental health and economic growth “.

After allowing the Christmas celebrations to unfold normally, another series of mass-market events for the New Year’s celebrations is encouraged. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there will be no further restrictions until the New Year. In addition, no additional federal restrictions have been put in place in Spain or France for the December 31 celebrations. In Italy, public events have been canceled, but an unlimited number of people are allowed to meet in private.

So far, Omicron infections have been disproportionately concentrated in young adults. The intergenerational mixing of the holiday period will allow the variant to pass to the older generations, where it will cause much more serious illness and death.

Attempts by European governments to lull workers to sleep over the gravity of the crisis are exposed by the crisis in Britain, where the Omicron surge began earlier than elsewhere in Europe, Yesterday 10,462 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, most since March 1 In London, the epicenter of the Omicron surge, the figure stands at 3,310, up 63% week-over-week. Sixty percent of admissions to Omicron are double or triple vaccinated patients.

UK authorities have called on hospitals to urgently prepare for record-breaking hospitalizations due to Omicron’s “super-surge”, including converting hospital canteens and car parks into field hospitals. Already one in 10 UK National Health Service (NHS) staff is isolated. In the past week, 512 children were hospitalized for COVID-19, a 52% increase and a pandemic record.

Nevertheless, governments across Europe are planning a full resumption of non-essential production after the holidays and the full reopening of schools and universities on January 3. With schools acting as vectors of contagion, this will accelerate infections, hospitalizations, Long COVID cases and Deaths from COVID-19 in children, mostly unvaccinated.

To keep kids in school, workers at work and profits going to banks, European governments are implementing measures that will actually increase infection rates. European authorities are following the lead of the US Centers for Disease Control’s decision to reduce isolation periods for those infected from 10 to five days.

In Spain, on Wednesday, the national government lowered the isolation time from 10 to seven days for those vaccinated. Similar measures are being considered in France, Italy and Greece, while the UK has already reduced isolation from 10 to seven days for double vaccines on December 22.

These measures are clearly unscientific. At the start of the pandemic, the WHO recommended 14 days of isolation after infection with COVID-19 to ensure the virus is not spread. The CDC adopted the five-day isolation rule in response to demands from airlines and other business executives, as staff shortages due to the disease reduced vacation profits. Looking longingly across the Atlantic, European capitalists are determined to impose the same deadly measures on working people in Europe.

Workers must be warned. After nearly 1.5 million people have died in Europe from the pandemic, there is no doubt that the ruling class is ready to pursue reckless policies that will cost millions of lives. Indeed, at the very onset of the pandemic, even as German intelligence warned that letting the virus spread unhindered in Germany would cost more than a million lives, Johnson suggested, “Maybe you could take it. on the chin, take it all in one fell swoop and allow the disease, so to speak, to spread through the population.

This was only prevented by an independent mobilization of workers which began in Italy in the first days of March 2020 and quickly spread throughout Europe and the United States. The resulting lockdowns interrupted transmission, but squeezed profits for companies and billionaires. The ruling elite have vowed never to allow such an incursion again, regardless of the death toll.

Today, only the independent mobilization of millions of workers can impose a scientific policy necessary to fight the virus. The ability of science policy to eliminate the virus has been demonstrated in China, where containment, contact tracing and isolation of those infected has eliminated transmission of the virus within China’s borders. In 2021, only two people died from COVID-19 in China, a country of 1.4 billion people.

Workers and young people cannot be exposed to mass death. Basic safety committees must be formed in workplaces, schools and neighborhoods to demand the halt of non-essential production and the implementation of science policies to eliminate the virus. During a period of lockdown, workers and their families must be supported by a full income, paid for by impounding the wealth of the financial aristocracy.

Mary I. Bruner