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.
According to the latest available data from the Department of Health and Social Care, the number of people over 60 who tested positive in the UK quadrupled compared to early September.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said at a government news conference last week that the higher infection rates originally seen among younger people have recently started to “creep up” into the higher age groups.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s center for disease control, warned in its latest situation report on Monday that the “proportion of cases in older age groups has been increasing” since early September.
In France, the number of new Covid-19 cases among people 65 and over has tripled in just six weeks, according to the French health agency.
And data from Spain shows that while the median age of those newly diagnosed with the virus dropped from 40 in late July to 37 in late August, it has recently increased again to 39.
The spread of infections from younger to older age groups has been documented elsewhere too.