A new wave of the coronavirus pandemic swept the EU countries, forcing the authorities to introduce new anti-corruption restrictions, which has already led to a rapid increase in social tensions and protests. In this situation, Brussels insists on continuing the widest possible vaccination of citizens of the community, including the active use of the third booster dose and the expansion of vaccination of children. At the same time, EU institutions tacitly approve of the brutal police crackdown. Experts, reiterating the importance of the vaccination campaign, note that the state authorities misinterpreted the role of widespread vaccination, which did not allow to avoid the start of a new wave of the pandemic, and the false promises given to the population led to public frustration and risks of social instability.
In most EU countries, where at the moment about 76% of the adult population are vaccinated with two doses, since the middle of autumn there has been a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, comparable to the level of the first wave. At the same time, the hospitalization and mortality rate remains several times lower than during the first and second waves of the pandemic.
In Belgium, the Netherlands and in the overseas department of France on the island of Martinique, thousands of protests against antiquity restrictions have taken place in recent days. All the demonstrations ended in clashes with the police, which used water cannons and tear gas – the demonstrators in response threw bottles, stones and firecrackers at the guards. In Rotterdam, police were even forced to open fire on protesters to kill – several people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
It is significant that not just one social group took part in the protests. There were people from different walks of life, of different a-ges and of a wide variety of political views – from imm-igrants from migrant quarters to nationalists. The slogans also differed, but most often the word “freedom” flashed across in English, French, Dutch and German. The protests can be safely called international.
In a conversation with me during the permitted part of the rally in Brussels, the protesters said the same thing in different words: they no longer believe in lockdown and vaccinations and demand the lifting of new sanitary restrictions, which, according to them, only “harm business and destroy the lives of ordinary people”.
QR codes and mandatory vaccinations
However, there is no chance of this in Europe now. On the contrary, QR codes are becoming more widespread, and the restrictions for unvaccinated people are becoming more and more.
Austria went farthest in this direction: from November 15, a lockdown was introduced here for unvaccinated citizens – they will be able to leave home only to shop in a supermarket, pharmacy, to help those in need, to work, or for a walk. As early as November 8, the unvaccinated stopped visiting restaurants, bars, cafes, beauty and massage salons, fitness centers, cinemas, theaters and checked into hotels. These public institutions are open only to holders of certificates in accordance with the Austrian rule of “two Ps”, that is, vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. To attend public events, the “2P +” system has been introduced, which implies that a person must not only be vaccinated or have immunity after an illness, but also have a fresh negative PCR test with him.
The authorities of many other EU countries, including Belgium, where the EU institutions are located, are actively studying this experience, preparing to introduce similar norms if the situation cannot be reversed. A similar system is already being actively implemented, for example, in Germany.
Thus, vaccination actually becomes mandatory, although no one declares this. Moreover, the “2P +” system is like a recognition at the administrative level that vaccination does not guarantee that the spread of the virus will stop and vaccinated people can remain carriers of it.
As Belgian virologist Leon Melle told me, “Vaccines continue to demonstrate their effectiveness, dramatically reducing deaths and severe disease.” “They are doubly important now, in the fall, when common flu is spreading, and tripled for those vulnerable to the virus, in particular the elderly,” he said. “Alas, vaccinated people do not cease to be a vector of the disease. (EU leadership – note TASS) to vaccination for an early return to normal life was unsuccessful – in many people it caused the feeling that the vaccine makes them invulnerable to disease and frees them from the need to wear masks and observe other barrier rules.”
This approach has manifested itself not only at the level of individuals. For example, in October, the authorities of the northern federal region of Belgium – Dutch-speaking Flanders, where 60% of the country’s population lives, decided to start a phase-out of wearing masks indoors, citing the fact that 90% of residents over the age of 18 were fully vaccinated in the region by October…. These plans were not destined to come true – by November 1, the rapid spread of the virus forced the kingdom’s government to begin a new tightening of sanitary measures.
The new wave of the pandemic in the EU countries against the background of a high level of vaccination of the population does not speak about the ineffectiveness of vaccinations against coronavirus, they are still the only scientifically based method of combating the pandemic, said the representative of the European Commission Stefan De Keersmaker.
“Our strategy remains the same no matter what, and it is defined by three words – vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate,” he said at a November 22 briefing in Brussels.
“We have clear figures that the more vaccinations, the lower the hospitalization rate, the lower the mortality rate,” he stressed, noting that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently studying the possibility of vaccinating children under ten years of age with existing vaccines. He declined to comment on the tightening of sanitary measures in different EU countries, noting that sanitary policies are determined at the national and not at the European level.
In turn, the official representative of the European Commission Dana Spinant said that in the EU “76% of adults have already been vaccinated with two doses.” “We have to keep vaccinating, we also have to use boosters or third doses,” she continued. According to Spinant, thus, “if we take into account the vaccinated children, now about two thirds of the entire population of the European Union are fully vaccinated.” “This means that there is still a third of EU citizens, this is a lot of European citizens who remain unvaccinated. The virus is spreading rapidly in this environment, mutating, which leads to the emergence of new variants of the virus,” she said.
In support of the police
The European Commission is not going to criticize the tough actions of the police in dispersing the protests. According to Spinant, the use of force by the police against protesters against anti-antiquity restrictions in the European Union can only be assessed by the authorities of the EU countries, which are obliged to prevent street riots. “The right to manifest is a fundamental right of citizens, but violence in the streets is unacceptable. It is the duty of national authorities in EU countries to ensure law and order,” Spinant said.
“Since the European Commission was not present at the scene [of the riots] and is not a police organization, it is not in the best position [to comment on the actions of the police of the EU states]. I can only say that we adhere to a number of principles, in particular the right to peaceful manifestations, general observance of the fundamental rights of citizens and the proportionality of any retaliatory actions by the forces of law and order. in turn, the representative of the European Commission Adalbert Jans.
Leaders get sick too
The pandemic affects everyone, including the fully vaccinated leaders of the EU countries. So, on Monday it became known that French Prime Minister Jean Casteks had tested positive for COVID-19. He completed a full course of vaccinations with two doses of AstraZeneca on June 19, 2021.
Prior to receiving the test results, in addition to participating in a series of workshops in France, Casteks visited Brussels on Monday morning, where he met with his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo. Later, De Kroo also announced a positive result of his PCR test and was forced to go into self-isolation. The infection of the French prime minister has demonstrated another problem facing the authorities of the EU and the countries of the community. Of the 76% of fully vaccinated citizens, more than a quarter received the second dose more than six months ago, while they continue to be considered vaccinated. There is no clear EU-wide regulation on vaccination with additional doses yet – each country is now hastily developing its own rules.
In particular, Belgium sets aside four months for revaccination, hoping to inoculate the third dose of all vaccinated by April 2022. By this time, more than a year will have passed for a part of the country’s population since the moment of vaccination with the second dose, but all this time they will be able to continue using their QR codes.