233,000 cases.

219,000 cases.

Now you may think those are the number of cases over the past two days around the world. However, they are just the number of COVID-19 cases in Europe over the last two days. Europe is suffering one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 ever seen, and it looks like many countries will be spending the next couple of months in strict lockdown, including the holiday period.

So, after successfully overcoming the first wave of the virus, how did the virus re-emerge across the continent? And how did it get this tragic?

During the first wave of COVID-19 in Europe, France’s daily new case number reached a peak of just over 7,500 on March 31. Its new peak recorded 3 days ago, was 86,000 cases, over 11 times higher than the first peak. This increase is similar in countries such as Spain and the UK.

A significant cause for this rise has been the easing of restrictions over the past few months. Europe’s summer is a crucial period for many nation’s economies as tourism sustains many cities and towns. Due to the loosening of restrictions to enable tourism, many people had a sense of regained freedom and a feeling of lesser need to adhere to physical distancing measures over the summer months. People thought the worst of the virus was well and truly behind them.

Bluntly, people gave up. From citizens all the way up to politicians, the exhausting and lonely nature of restrictions became too much for many. And, as soon as they were given a chance to enjoy parts of their pre-pandemic lifestyle, they took the opportunity. It’s hard to blame people for this because it was the government’s who made the decision first. They placed the economy over people’s lives, and that will likely come back to haunt many political leaders.

Political leaders also consistently refused to implement national lockdowns which have had proven success in other countries. The French Government reimposed some restrictions in urban areas but continued to allow restaurants, classrooms, and gyms to operate with a limited capacity. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson enforced a three-tier system which aims to allow for significant outbreaks to be contained. Every country tried everything to avoid national lockdowns, and now they have no choice but to shut down their nations. In waiting so long, they have only extended the second wave and cost more lives.

The majority of Europe has now locked down again, and this will likely remain the case for at least the next month. It is a difficult time now for all Europeans, but I hope that this can be the last time they are in lockdown before a vaccine is available.

The governments of many European nations will have a lot of questions to answer, but for now, I hope and pray that the human cost of this virus is limited as much as possible.

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