700,000 more could die in Europe: WHO on Covid-19

Cumulative reported deaths projected to reach over 2.2mn by spring next year: WHO sounds alarm
The closed 'Christkindlmarkt' Vienna's Christmas Market and St Stephen's Cathedral Austria during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.(AFP)
The closed 'Christkindlmarkt' Vienna's Christmas Market and St Stephen's Cathedral Austria during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.(AFP)
Updated on Nov 25, 2021 06:25 AM IST
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Agencies | By, Copenhagen/berlin

Europe remains “in the firm grip” of Covid and the death toll on the continent could top 2.2mn this winter if current trends continue, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Some 700,000 could die in the coming months, the WHO said, as cases creep up across Europe, prompting some countries to reimpose tough restrictions.

The WHO expects “high or extreme stress in intensive care units (ICUs) in 49 out of 53 countries between now and March 1, 2022”. “Cumulative reported deaths are projected to reach over 2.2mn by spring next year,” it added, up from the current 1.5mn. According to WHO data, Covid-related deaths increased last week to nearly 4,200 a day, doubling from 2,100 deaths a day at the end of September.

The WHO also said evidence was growing that vaccine-induced protection against infection and mild disease was declining. “The Covid-19 situation across Europe and Central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead,” regional director for WHO Europe, Hans Kluge, said in a statement.

He called for a “vaccine plus” approach, consisting of vaccinations, social distancing, the use of face masks and hand washing.

Call for more Covid-19 restrictions in Germany

Germany’s health minister called on Tuesday for further restrictions to contain a “dramatic” surge in coronavirus cases as the country’s infection rate hit a record high and the US advised against travel there.

The seven-day incidence rate - the number of people per 100,000 to be infected over the last week - hit 399.8 on Tuesday, up from 386.5 on Monday, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

Health minister Jens Spahn called for more public spaces to be restricted to those who were vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19 and also had a negative test, in a bid to contain Germany’s fourth wave.

Spahn did not rule out lockdowns, although he said this would be decided region by region. Some regions such as the hard-hit Saxony and Bavaria are already taking measures such as cancelling Christmas markets.

“The situation is not only serious, in some regions in Germany it is now dramatic,” Spahn told German Radio. “We are having to move patients around as the intensive care units are full and that doesn’t just affect Covid-19 patients.”

The surge in cases in Germany, and in neighbouring Denmark, prompted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday to advise against travel to the two countries, raising its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High”.

The Netherlands on Tuesday started transporting Covid patients across the border to Germany to ease pressure on Dutch hospitals struggling to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases. The number of patients in Dutch hospitals has swelled to its highest level since May in recent weeks .

French PM tests positive

French Prime Minister Jean Castex tested positive for Covid-19 and will be isolating for 10 days, his office said in a statement.

Although France has not put new restrictions in place like Austria and Germany, the latest wave is hitting the country “at a blazing speed”, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Sunday.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government is reinforcing healthpass checks in enclosed areas and this week will discuss opening up its booster-shot campaign to more adults, he said. In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and several other ministers went into quarantine on Monday after meeting with French PM Castex earlier in the day.

The Czech Republic may make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for people over the age of 60 as well as for some professions including health and social care workers, under plans now being drawn up, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Tuesday.

Austria on Monday went into a new lockdown while Slovakia’s leaders have proposed a national lockdown as hospitals across the European Union country are hitting their limits amid a record surge of coronavirus infections.

The European Medicines Agency said it has received a request from Merck to authorise its coronavirus antiviral, the first pill shown to treat Covid-19.

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