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Explained: How does the UK’s Covid infection rate compare to the rest of Europe?

·5-min read
Explained: How does the UK’s Covid infection rate compare to the rest of Europe?

The UK Government has come under growing pressure to act to curb a sharp rise in Covid cases.

As infections surged past the 50,000 mark on Thursday, senior health leaders warned tighter restrictions would be needed to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Ministers have not yet enacted “Plan Bcontingency measures – including work from home guidance, mandatory masks and vaccine passports–even as hospital admissions showed a steady rise week-on-week.

The measures would bring the UK in line with the rest of Western Europe, which has seen comparatively low infection rates.

Using data from Statista, the Evening Standard compared infection rates and Covid policy in countries across Europe to find out just how serious the situation in Britain is.


Latvia went back into lockdown for a month on Thursday following a sharp rise in cases, becoming the first EU country to do so since the bloc began reopening earlier this year.

Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said the country’s health service “was in danger” amid a spike in hospitalisations, blaming the increase on the significant portion of the population refusing to get vaccinated.

According to the latest figures, the country has fully vaccinated just 54 per cent of its population – far below the EU average of 74 per cent.

As of October 21, the country’s infection rate stood at 809.3 per 100,000 in the past seven days. This is below Georgia’s 821.2 but far above the UK’s 476.9.

This despite Latvia reopening more slowly and cautiously than Britain, with indoor dining only allowed from mid-June - nearly a month after the UK.

The Baltic country has also enforced vaccine passports for international travel since August.

Under the new lockdown rules, all hospitality venues and shops will close with only essential manufacturing and construction jobs allowed to continue.

An empty shopping mall in Riga, Latvia on Thursday after the country was plunged back into lockdown (REUTERS)
An empty shopping mall in Riga, Latvia on Thursday after the country was plunged back into lockdown (REUTERS)


Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic, but Spain now boasts one of the lowest infection rates in Europe.

In the seven days to October 21, Spain’s infection rate stood at 27.8 infections per 100,000 people – just six per cent that of the UK.

This despite the removal of all major restrictions in most areas of the country – with football stadiums now heaving with supporters and nightclubs packed out.

Spain has, however, retained mandatory mask regulations indoors and also has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 79 per cent of population fully jabbed.

Restrictions are set at a regional level, with some regions such as Murcia only allowing six people to dine indoors together. In Andalucía, theatres, cinemas, auditoriums, places of worship, and concert halls have returned to 100 per cent capacity.

People in Madrid enjoy food and drinks after Covid regulations were eased (AP)
People in Madrid enjoy food and drinks after Covid regulations were eased (AP)


Germany’s infection rate currently stands at 85.6 cases per 100,000. This is around one sixth of that in the UK.

The country was praised for its handling of the pandemic in the early stages, managing to limit fatalities through a programme of mass testing and lockdown restrictions.

Despite a slow start, Germany’s vaccination levels have caught up with the rest of Europe. As of October 22, around 69 per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated.

This still lags behind the UK which has double jabbed 77 per cent of the adult population.

Covid restrictions remain harsher in Germany. Anyone wishing to enter indoor hospitality venues must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.

Like Spain, policies vary according to region but most major areas – including Berlin, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland – now require a Covid pass and mask rules remain.


France has enjoyed a low infection rate as a result of high vaccination levels, after suffering one of the highest death tolls during the pandemic.

The country’s case rate of 49.2 per 100,000 people puts it above Spain and Italy but far below the UK.

France also recorded 35 deaths on Thursday - less than a third of Britain. The country has fully vaccinated 68 per cent of the population.

Meanwhile, the country has some of the strictest rules on vaccine passports, with a ‘pass sanitaire’ required to enter almost all indoor venues.

France lifted the requirement to wear a face mask outside in October but it is still obligatory to cover your face inside - unlike in Britain.


The Scandinavian nation stood apart for choosing to pursue a herd immunity strategy at the beginning of the pandemic.

However, the country’s death toll far eclipsed its neighbours, Denmark and Norway, which opted for tighter curbs.

But, after a successful vaccination campaign, the country now has one of Europe’s lowest infection rates at 38.1 cases per 100,000. Two-thirds of the population is now double-vaccinated.

Sweden’s response was underpinned by strong public health messaging, relying heavily on voluntary recommendations regarding issues such as social distancing and hygiene.

However, a surge in cases prompted a wave of new restrictions over the summer, with crowd limits imposed on concerts, sporting events and restaurants. These have now been lifted.


As countries across Europe reopen, Romania reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths and infections on Tuesday.

Hospitals have been pushed to breaking point, with emergency beds fully occupied across the country while morgues are running at full capacity.

Romania’s infection rate of 541 cases per 100,000 in the week to October 21 is the 7th highest in Europe, and well above the UK.

The Eastern European nation has the EU’s second-lowest vaccination rate, with just 36 per cent of the population fully inoculated - nearly half the rate in Britain. More than 90 per cent of Romania’s Covid fatalities in October were of unvaccinated people, data shows.

Romania began a gradual easing of restrictions for areas with low incidence rates in early May and almost completely opened in early July - despite low vaccination levels. Hospitality venues reopened and face mask rules were scrapped.

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