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Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Europe is swiftly shutting down as the unprecedented spike in new cases hits perilous new heights.

The big picture: Cases are growing uncontrollably across most of the continent. While spikes in hospitalizations and deaths have thus far been less sharp in most countries, fears of overcrowded hospitals are growing. The U.S. may be tracking just two or three weeks behind.

Driving the news: Fresh off imposing a new lockdown — something he’d vowed not to do — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the current spike could ultimately be “twice as bad” as Britain’s brutal spring.

  • “We could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day," he warned.
  • Starting Thursday, bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses across England will be closed. International travel will be banned, as will the mixing of multiple households indoors.
  • As in most of Europe, schools will stay open.
  • The new measures are slated to last until Dec. 2, but Johnson conceded today that they could be extended.

The latest: Austria also announced a lockdown on Saturday, while restaurants, movie theaters and gyms will be closed in most of Greece starting Tuesday. Belgium is also locking down.

There is less horrifying news elsewhere.

  • Israel was the first country to impose a second nationwide lockdown, but it appears to be working despite less harsh restrictions and some flouting of the rules, WSJ notes.
  • Case counts fell swiftly and dramatically, starting just 10 days after the lockdown was imposed.

In India, cases and deaths have been consistently in decline since a mid-September peak.

Go deeper: Europe's monster second wave

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.