COVID deaths in Europe

COVID deaths in Europe

I’ve been watching the TV news coverage of protests in European cities against COVID restrictions in various countries.

There are also stories of the Dutch authorities starting to move COVID patients to hospitals in Germany to ease the strain on their hospitals. In Hungary some mortuaries can’t cope with the surge of COVID deaths and have bodies lying in corridors.

The World Health Organisation is warning of 700,000 more COVID deaths in Europe by March, which means that over the whole of Europe (not just the EU) this winter will be almost as deadly as last winter, bringing the total number of deaths from COVID to 2.2m.

The WHO says that the spike is because of restrictions being lifted too early, vaccine hesitancy and the growth of the Delta variant.

Around two thirds of EU residents have been fully vaccinated, with Bulgaria slowest to roll out vaccinations, with just one quarter vaccinated.

There are a variety of organisations comparing the effects of COVID, so for the sake of consistency we’ll use the Johns Hopkins University figures, which show that 9 EU countries have had a higher death rate relative to their population than the UK, which has slipped down this particular ‘league table’.

The University reports that the UK has suffered 216 deaths per 100,000 people since the pandemic began, below Italy and Belgium, but higher than Ireland (113), Germany (120), Austria (136), France (178) and Spain (186). Bulgaria (396) has had the highest death rate in Europe.

COVID restrictions and liberty

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Protestors claim that Governments are restricting their liberty.

British political philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote the book (called On Liberty) in which he defined liberty as “the power of the individual in relation to the state”. To him liberty was achieved through education, housing, electoral reform and health. Through these things people would become empowered and inequality reduced.

There is an element of the state exercising power to achieve some of Mills’ aims  – people are forced to send their children to school, obliged to register to vote and banned from urinating in the street!

COVID is now the largest cause of death in Europe.

Is an element of coercion justified to protect health, especially of the most vulnerable members of society?

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