Saturday, December 4, 2021

WHO Europe chief expresses ‘grave concern’ about COVID rebound

GENEVA (NWN) – A 53-country region in Europe and Central Asia faces a “real threat” of a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks or is already experiencing a new wave of infections, World Health The regional head office of the organization said on Thursday.

Dr. Hans Kluge said the number of cases is again approaching record levels and the speed of transmission in the region, which extends east to the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, is “a matter of grave concern.”

“We are at another critical point in the resurgence of the pandemic,” Kluge told reporters from the WHO Europe headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. “Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic, where we were a year ago.”

He said the difference now is that health officials know more about the virus and have better tools to deal with it. He said relaxed preventive measures and low vaccination rates in some areas explain the latest surge.

Kluge said the hospitalization rate due to COVID-19 in the region of 53 countries has more than doubled over the past week. If that trajectory continues, the region could see 500,000 more pandemic deaths by February, he said.

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WHO Europe says the region has about 1.8 million new weekly cases, a nearly 6% increase from the previous week, and 24,000 COVID-19 weekly deaths – a 12% gain.

Kluge said countries in the region were in “different stages of vaccination rollout” and that an average of 47% of people in the region were fully vaccinated. Only eight countries had 70% of their population fully vaccinated.

“We must change our strategy, from the response to the COVID-19 surge, to prevent them from happening in the first place,” Kluge said.

The WHO headquarters in Geneva reported on Wednesday that cases rose for the fifth week in a row in Europe, making it the only world region where COVID-19 is still on the rise. The infection rate was by far the highest in Europe, with 192 new cases per 100,000 people.

Several countries in Central and Eastern Europe have seen an increase in the number of daily cases in recent weeks.

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