UK now has highest rate of new COVID cases in Europe

·4-min read
The UK now has the highest rate of COVID cases in Europe.
The UK now has the highest rate of COVID cases in Europe. (PA Images/ Our World in Data)

The UK now has the highest rate of new COVID infections in Europe.

Infections are also climbing at the fastest pace in the UK compared with the rest of the continent.  

The news comes after Boris Johnson was forced to delay lifting the final coronavirus restrictions by four weeks as the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, continues to spread at pace.

Meanwhile, several countries in mainland Europe, including Spain, Italy and Germany, are planning to lift measures as they see cases fall. 

Read: Boris Johnson says dancing indoors at weddings is banned

As of 14 June, the seven-day rolling average COVID case rate in the UK stands at 107.33 cases per million people, according to Our World in Data.

(Our World in Data)
(Our World in Data)

The chart above shows the level of COVID rates in European countries, with darker red representing a higher case rate.

The European countries with the highest rate of new infections are listed below. The figures are the rolling seven-day average for new confirmed COVID cases per million, up to 14 June.

UK 107
Spain 105
Latvia 92
Belarus 90
Russia 84
Denmark 78
Netherlans 77
Sweden 77
Greece 72
Slovenia 71
Portugal 71
Lithuania 67
France 58
Belgium 65
Cyrpus 63
Ireland 62

The latest figures also show the UK has seen the sharpest growth in cases in Europe.

Cases grew by 45.02% in the seven days up to Tuesday compared with the previous seven days, according to Our World in Data.

(Our World in Data)
(Our World in Data)

The chart above shows the week-by-week change in COVID cases. European countries that have seen an increase are shown in red and countries that have experienced a decrease are in blue. 

Russia has the second-fastest growth in cases, with numbers rising by 35.66% since the previous seven days. Several Russian regions tightened coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday and said they were increasing hospital capacity for an influx of patients after the steep rise in 19 cases. 

Portugal, which saw a 27.84% rise, is one of the other few countries where cases are rising.

(Our World in Data)
(Our World in Data)

Cases were lower in the UK compared with other countries throughout April but began climbing in mid-May. 

Meanwhile, other countries like France, Germany and Italy had higher rates but are now seeing numbers dropping. 

Even though UK cases are rising, the country has not seen death rates increase in the same way – as shown in the chart below.

(Our World in Data)
(Our World in Data)

The UK still has one of the lowest daily death rates in Europe with just 0.14 deaths per million people, represented on the chart in one of the lighter shades. 

This has prompted hope that the UK’s vaccine programme may have broken the chain between catching the virus and serious illness, hospitalisation and death. 

On Monday , Boris Johnson would only state that the link between infections and being hospitalised has been weakened - but not stopped.

As a result, the government has warned that a significant increase in cases could yet lead to another surge in hospitalisations and deaths. 

Watch: More than 30 million people in the UK have now had both vaccines

With Delta variant cases still spreading, the government has chosen to extend the remaining lockdown restrictions until 19 July. 

Announcing this delay in unlocking on Monday, Johnson said: “It's unmistakably clear that vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine rollout has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves.

"But now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people."

It comes as several European countries start to ease more of their own lockdown restrictions as infection numbers fall.

People drink and eat in outdoor street dining areas, as lockdown restrictions are eased amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Soho, London, Britain, April 24, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
People drink and eat in outdoor street dining areas, as lockdown restrictions are eased amidst the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Soho, London. (Reuters)

Last week, Spain lifted travel restrictions on low-risk countries, and also for fully vaccinated people from high-risk countries. 

The country is now considering easing rules on wearing face masks outdoors as early as mid-June, officials said on Monday.

Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn also told newspapers on Monday that the time has come to consider removing the requirement for people to wear face masks. 

Many areas of Germany are partially reopening to allow outdoor dining and small gatherings.

France and Belgium both lifted a raft of restrictions last week in time for summer.

French bars, restaurants, gyms and swimming pools are welcoming people indoors for the first time in seven months, while Belgium is easing its rules to allow indoor dining at cafes and restaurants.

But France has recently begun reporting more Delta variant cases of its own, with health minister Olivier Veran saying the variant currently represents 2-4% of cases in the country.

He said this meant France was registering between 50-150 cases a day of the Delta variant.

Watch: COVID variant halts UK reopening as businesses plea for help

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