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Europe’s COVID-19 divide

February 23, 2021 | Science

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has swelled across Europe, claiming over 450,000 lives. But the loss of life has been uneven between Eastern and Western Europe, with eastern countries escaping the worst of the first wave that devastated the West thanks to early lockdowns and social distancing measures.

But as spring and summer turned to autumn and winter, eastern countries relaxed some lockdown measures, and by the end of 2020 the pandemic had hit them hard too.

In terms of excess deaths — the number of deaths beyond what was normal in recent years — Eastern Europe has seen large spikes above normal levels at the end of the year that were last seen in March and April in the West. Europe’s pandemic has been a story of two Europes: One west, one east. One a devastating spring, the other a tragic autumn.