Surge in Europe Covid-19 cases ‘a warning shot’ for world – WHO


Germany has recorded almost 34,000 daily Covid cases in the past 24 hours, its highest number so far, in what the health minister is calling a “massive pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Pedestrian zones in Munich on 18 October 2021.

Pedestrians in Munich on 18 October. German public health officials are worried that a fourth wave of infection could lead to a large number of deaths and pressure on the health system. Photo: AFP / Frank Hoermann / Sven Simon / Dpa Picture-Alliance

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a possible half a million more deaths in Europe by February.

WHO Europe head Hans Kluge blamed insufficient vaccine take-up.

Sixteen million Germans are unvaccinated.

However hospital intensive care cases are still lower than in spring.

Kluge said a relaxation of public health measures was also behind the rise in cases in the WHO’s European region, which covers 53 countries including parts of Central Asia. So far the WHO has recorded 1.4m deaths across the region.

WHO technical lead on Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said over the past four weeks cases across Europe had soared over 55 percent despite an “ample supply of vaccines and tools”, and colleague Mike Ryan said Europe’s experience was a “warning shot for the world”.

While the Covid numbers in Germany are below the UK’s latest daily case numbers of more than 37,000, public health officials are worried that a fourth wave of infection could lead to a large number of deaths and pressure on the health system.

In the past 24 hours 165 deaths have been recorded, up from 126 a week ago.

Lothar Wieler of Germany’s RKI institute spoke of terrifying numbers. “If we don’t take countermeasures now, this fourth wave will bring yet more suffering,” he said. Among the many Germans who have not been vaccinated are more than three million over-60s, seen at particular risk.

German restaurants and cafes require people to have proof of vaccination or recovery before entry, or in many cases a negative test, but the rules are not always applied.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said he had been asked more times for his vaccination certificate in one day in Rome at the weekend than he had been over four weeks in Germany.

But as Hans Kluge points out, the surge in cases is not confined to Germany.

The most dramatic rises in fatalities have been in the past week in Russia, where more than 8100 deaths were recorded, and Ukraine, with 3800 deaths. Both countries have very low rates of vaccination and Ukraine announced a record 27,377 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Romania recorded its highest number of deaths in 24 hours this week at 591.

This week the Dutch government said it would reimpose mask-wearing and social distancing in many public settings as it emerged that hospital admissions had gone up 31 percent in a week.

In Hungary, daily Covid infections have more than doubled in the past week to 6268. Mask-wearing is only required on public transport and in hospitals.

“At the moment we seem to be hell-bent on a course that says the pandemic is over, we just need to vaccinate a few more people. That is not the case,” WHO emergency director Mike Ryan said, He called for every country to plug the holes in their response.

Croatia recorded 6310 new cases on Thursday, its highest number so far. Slovakia has reported its second highest number of cases and Czech infections have returned to levels last seen in spring.

Latvia is imposing a three-month state of emergency from Monday amid a record level of Covid infection.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said on Wednesday that too many people believed the pandemic was over.

However, in countries with the highest vaccination rates, infection rates are still relatively low.

Italy has one of the highest vaccination rates for over-12s but even here new cases are up 16.6 percent in the past week.

Portugal’s infections have risen above 1000 for the first time since September. Spain is one of the few countries not to see a rise in transmission with 2287 cases reported on Wednesday.


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