Last week, around 1.8 million new cases and 24,000 new deaths were reported in Europe, sending a concerning message: the region could once again be the center of the pandemic.
The U.K. has seen a sharp rise in cases for several months and cases have started to rise dramatically on mainland Europe in recent weeks, particularly in central and eastern Europe as well as Russia, but also in France and Germany, which have both expressed concern about the increase.
COVID-19 cases have risen dramatically in the U.K. over the past few months, with the number of new daily infections hovering between 40,000-50,000 per day although the numbers in recent days have shown a tentative decrease; still, 41,299 new cases were reported on Wednesday.
“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” advised Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.
If the region continues on this trajectory, Kluge said one “reliable projection” predicts there could be another 500,000 COVID-related deaths in the region by February 2022 and that 43 countries in the region would face high to extreme stress on hospital beds at some point in the same period.
Because of the vaccines, the daily number of deaths caused by the virus remains far below previous peaks in the pandemic, but there have been concerns about the increasing prevalence of a new mutation of the highly infectious delta variant as well as sluggish vaccination campaigns, booster vaccination drives and the onset of the winter season where viruses spread more easily with more people convening indoors.
Speaking at a joint press conference, German Health Minister Jens Spahn and Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, said a slowdown in vaccination numbers was a problem, as was the number of unvaccinated people.
“If we do not act, this fourth wave will again bring a great deal of suffering.” the RKI’s Wieler said. “Many people will fall seriously ill and die, and the health services will be under extreme pressure again.”
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