Europe faces 500,000 additional Covid deaths in February, WHO warns – Community News
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Europe faces 500,000 additional Covid deaths in February, WHO warns

Much of Europe is experiencing spikes in infections, with Germany reporting the highest number of daily new cases since the start of the pandemic on Thursday.

And in a dire new warning, WHO regional director Hans Kluge said the rate of transmission in the region was “seriously worrisome”.

“We are once again at the epicenter,” Kluge said in a statement.

“According to one reliable forecast, if we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million COVID-19 deaths in Europe and Central Asia by February 1 next year,” he warned, adding that 43 of the 53 landing on his patch could also see high or extreme stress on hospital beds.

Large parts of the continent are competing to push back the wave of the Delta variant, which has made the easing of restrictions difficult in many countries. Eastern Europe is particularly hard hit; cases are at record levels in Russia and now Germany, while Ukraine’s capital Kiev introduced severe new restrictions on Monday.

Germany is experiencing a "huge"  pandemic of unvaccinated, says health minister

Many experts have expressed concern that a further rise in infections, coupled with seasonal winter colds, could put health workers at Christmas and into the New Year under unmanageable pressure.

In its latest weekly update, the WHO said Europe registered a 6% increase in cases in the past week. That was the highest of any global region, with every other region registering “declinations or stable trends.”

“We are at another critical point of pandemic revival,” Kluge said. He blamed two factors for the new wave; the easing of Covid-19 measures and a lack of vaccination coverage in the Balkans and the east of the continent.

“Hospital admissions in countries with low vaccination coverage are significantly higher and are rising faster than in countries with higher vaccination coverage,” he said.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned on Wednesday that stricter measures are needed for those who refuse to be vaccinated. Spahn also told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that at the G20 in Rome, he was asked for his vaccination certificate more often in one day than in Germany in four weeks.

A waiter checks a customer's Covid-19 health card in France.

He was responding to a dramatic increase in infections in the country; 33,949 new cases were registered on Thursday, breaking the previous record set in December 2020. The number of hospitalizations and deaths remains much lower than during that pre-vaccination peak.

Spahn said Germany was experiencing a “huge” pandemic of unvaccinated people, adding: “The truth is there would be far fewer Covid-19 patients in [intensive care] if everyone who could get a vaccine.”

The UK has also endured a stubborn streak of new infections since the end of the summer, but has resisted the implementation of measures such as mask mandates or vaccine passes that have become commonplace across Europe.

Greece reported a record 6,808 cases of Covid-19 on Thursday – the highest number of days since the start of the pandemic, as the health system came under renewed pressure due to a surge in hospital admissions.

The Greek government has announced tougher restrictions on unvaccinated people in a bid to curb the spike, including unvaccinated workers undergoing two Covid-19 tests a week and negative tests to access public services, banks, shops and others. locations.

The government also increased fines for the non-compliant companies and said it will step up controls.

“There is a growing trend of the pandemic in our country, as is the case in most European countries. The government has taken all measures to strengthen the national health system and to that end we have more than doubled the IC beds”, Minister of Public Health Thanos Plevris said on Wednesday he was urging more people to get vaccinated.

The world has passed the milestone of 5 million Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic on Monday – a sign UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “a painful new threshold”.

Tara John, Nadine Schmidt and Chris Liakos of CNN contributed to this report.

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