Alarm bells in 53 European, Central Asian countries, WHO warns of new Covid wave

Covid-19 cases had risen in Europe for the fifth consecutive week, making it the only world region where the infections are still increasing, WHO's headquarters in Geneva said on Wednesday.
Head physician Lorenz Nowak treats a Covid-19 patient in the ICU of the Asklepios Clinic in Munich, Germany. (AP)
Head physician Lorenz Nowak treats a Covid-19 patient in the ICU of the Asklepios Clinic in Munich, Germany. (AP)
Published on Nov 05, 2021 05:43 AM IST
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By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

As many as 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia face the “real threat” of a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks or are already battling a new wave of infections, exacerbated by the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

“We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence. Europe is back at the epicentre of the pandemic, where we were one year ago,” WHO's Europe head Hans Kluge told reporters from the WHO Europe headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Kluge said case counts are beginning to near-record levels again and the pace of transmission in the region, which stretches as far east as the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, is of “grave concern.”

Also read | Biden admin mandates compulsory Covid jabs or tests for private firm workers

European countries must work harder to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further as deaths and new cases surge, Kluge added. He said the difference now is that health authorities know more about the virus and have better tools to combat it. Relaxed prevention measures and low vaccination rates in some areas explain the latest surge, he said.

WHO Europe has said that the region saw nearly 1.8 million new weekly Covid-19 cases, an increase of about 6 per cent from the previous week, and 24,000 deaths in the same period or a 12 per cent rise.

Also read | Germany reports record number of new Covid-19 cases

Kluge said hospitalisation rates due to Covid-19 in the 53-country region more than doubled over the last week. If the trajectory continues, Kluge said, the region could see another 500,000 pandemic deaths by February, he said.

"Today every single country in Europe and Central Asia is facing a real threat of Covid-19 resurgence or already fighting it."

Also watch: WHO warns of 5 lakh deaths in Europe amid major Covid-19 surge

Kluge said the countries in the region were at “varying stages of vaccination rollout” and that regionwide an average of 47 per cent of people were fully vaccinated. Only eight countries had 70 per cent of their populations fully vaccinated.

“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” Kluge said.

Also read | India's Covid-19 tally rises by 12,885; positivity rate at 1.21%

Covid-19 cases had risen in Europe for the fifth consecutive week, making it the only world region where the infections are still increasing, WHO's headquarters in Geneva said on Wednesday. The infection rate was by far the highest in Europe, which reported some 192 new cases per 100,000 people.

Sweden's chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said Thursday that “we are clearly in another wave,” and added that “the increased spread is entirely concentrated in Europe.”

Meanwhile, the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) urged people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The epidemiological situation in Europe is very concerning now as we head into the winter with increases in infection rates, hospitalisation and we can also see the increase in fatalities,” Fergus Sweeney, the EMA's head of clinical studies and manufacturing task force, said on Thursday.

“It's very important that everybody gets vaccinated or completes their dose of vaccination if they have already had a first dose but not a second dose,” Sweeney said. “It's really important that we're all vaccinated because we are not all protected until everyone is protected in that respect.”

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022