(CNN)Europe is deep in the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, and a particularly worrying trend is beginning to emerge: More older people are becoming infected.
Over the summer months, the continent saw infection clusters popping up mostly among younger people who were venturing out into bars, restaurants and other public spaces. While that wasn’t ideal, it meant the death rate stayed relatively low, since younger people are statistically less vulnerable to the virus and most avoid getting seriously ill.
However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned that more older people are now becoming infected. According to the ECDC’s latest situation report, at least 13 countries in Europe saw new infection rates among people aged 65 or over rise to what ECDC defines as “high” last week — between 64 per 100,000 in Croatia and 206 per 100,000 in the Netherlands.
A sharp increase in infections among older people in recent weeks can be seen in almost all European countries where data is available.
Covid-19 infection rates among over-65s in some Eastern European countries are now more than double what they were during the first wave — over 100 in the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary.
Higher infection rates among the elderly are worrying because older people are much more likely to end up in hospital and to face a significantly higher risk of dying.
According to the World Health Organization, almost 88% of all deaths in Europe were among the over-65 age group, as of late August. In the Czech Republic, over-65s made up 14% of weekly infections, but 94% of deaths as of October 11.
When the infection starts spreading among older people, hospitals can quickly become overwhelmed — as they did in Italy, Spain and other countries during the first wave of the virus in the spring.