The European continent is currently battling an increase in cases as it heads into winter with a handful of countries forced to reimpose COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates five weeks out from Christmas.
The experience is vastly different to Australia, which is easing rules, learning to live with the virus and reopening to the rest of the world for summer after utilising a suppression strategy for much of the pandemic.
Professor Robert Booy, an infectious diseases paediatrician at the University of Sydney, said there are a few factors that “put Europe much more at risk than Australia” of a COVID-19 resurgence almost two years after the pandemic swept the globe.
People are seen walking in Vienna, Austria on November 19 – the same day authorities announced the country would go into a nationwide lockdown (beginning on Monday) for 20 days in response to surging COVID-19 cases. Picture: Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images
“Firstly, Europe is much more densely populated and the number of people per square metre is considerably higher than Australia,” he told Skynews.com.au.
“Secondly, the virus doesn’t like the heat.
“Thirdly, they’re heading into winter and not only does the virus prefer cooler temperatures but what happens in cool weather, in winter, is that people spend much more time inside and crowded together and in places that are not well ventilated.
“So you have a combination of the virus liking the cooler temperature, people crowding together and ventilation not being adequate.
“All those things put Europe much more at risk than Australia.”
Germans stand at a Christmas market at Potsdamer Platz on November 19, 2021 in Berlin. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, on Thursday approved a bill that would impose restrictions, particularly on the unvaccinated, should hospitalisations reach specific levels due to COVID-19. Picture: by Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Professor Booy added that Australia’s preventative measures – “closed borders, good physical distancing and a largely compliant population” – have also put the country in good stead.
He warned that while the resurgence seen in Europe may not rock Australia’s shores in the same way, an increase in daily infections is inevitable as borders reopen.
“Because physical distancing is being relaxed, there inevitably will be an increase in COVID. It may not be a large increase but inevitably we should expect some increase with greater social mixing,” he said.
“We could be looking at surges in late summer, autumn of various viruses, including COVID and flu and other causes of the cold.”
Melburnians eat out as Australia learns to live with COVID-19. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
Australia is “freshly vaccinated” with most of the population rolling up their sleeves for two doses in the last four months.
“A lot of the European protection was done six to 11 months ago,” Professor Booy said.
“So there’s concern that immunity is waning a little bit.”
University of Melbourne Professor Dale Godfrey who is the immunology theme leader at the Doherty Institute agreed, saying Australia is “fortunate” to have very high vaccination rates which are still climbing.
As of Sunday, 91.5 per cent of people aged 16 and over across Australia had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 85.1 per cent were fully vaccinated.
Austria to enter full lockdown, mandates COVID-19 vaccines
“We have the opportunity to get boosters before our winter sets in and the evidence shows this should increase our resistance to infection substantially,” Professor Godfrey said citing data that is emerging from countries like Israel.
“I think and hope that with such a high vaccination rate in Australia, and the availability of booster shots, that by the time our winter sets in we will be able to minimise the impact.
“While there may be infections, the incidence of severe disease and hospitalisation associated with infection should be lower than in the pre-vaccination stages of this year and last year.”
Professor Booy also encouraged Australians to come forward for their booster shot once eligible.
At the beginning of November the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned Europe and central Asia is facing a real threat of COVID-19 resurgence.
Germany reintroduces restrictions as COVID cases rise in Europe
“The current pace of transmission across the 53 countries of the WHO European Region is of grave concern,” Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe said.
“COVID-19 cases are once again approaching record levels, with the more transmissible Delta variant continuing to dominate transmission across Europe and central Asia.”
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have barred unvaccinated residents from hotels, pubs, hairdressers from Monday, while the Netherlands and Germany brought back COVID-19 rules and Austria re-introduced lockdown.
Germany broke its pandemic record with more than 65,000 COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday.
There were 19,749 infections in France on Sunday, a 58 per cent per cent increase from a week earlier, 18,883 in Poland, a 31 per cent jump from a week earlier, and 9,709 in Italy, up from from 7,565 a week earlier.

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