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Europe once again at centre of Covid pandemic, says WHO

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Europe once again at centre of Covid pandemic, says WHO

World Health Organization

Europe once again at centre of Covid pandemic, says WHO

Cases at near-record levels and 500,000 more deaths forecast by February

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People line up for vaccination injections at the Malteser relief service on the fair grounds in Berlin, Germany.

Among the countries with the highest numbers of new daily infections, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are facing critical overloads on their health care systems and tightening measures, with Latvia imposing a nightly curfew, barring all public and most private gatherings, and limiting shopping to all but essential goods.

Estonia closed all public events and gatherings to non-vaccinated people and required those who have had both jabs to wear masks indoors, while several Russian regions said they could impose additional restrictions to fight a rise in cases that has already prompted Moscow to reimpose a partial lockdown nationwide.

Facing a dramatic increase in infections, the Dutch government will reintroduce tougher social restrictions from 6 November, making mask-wearing obligatory in public spaces such as shops and Covid passes mandatory for museums and other public spaces.

The move follows neighbouring Belgium’s decision to tighten its restrictions from Monday after case numbers hit their highest level in a year, reimposing mask-wearing indoors and encouraging people to work remotely.

Kluge said case numbers in Europe and central Asia had risen by 6% in a week, and deaths by 12%, with new daily infections surging by 55% over the past month. Europe and central Asia combined now accounted for 59% of all confirmed cases globally and nearly half of all deaths.

Insufficient vaccination coverage and the relaxation of public health and social measures were to blame, he said. With a billion doses now administered in Europe and central Asia, vaccines were saving “thousands upon thousands” of lives.

But while 70% of people in some countries are fully vaccinated, barely 10% are in others. “Where vaccine uptake is low, in many countries in the Baltics, central and eastern Europe and the Balkans, hospital admission rates are high,” he said.

Kluge said the most alarming development was the rapid increase in infections and deaths in older population groups, with hospital admission rates more than doubling in a week and 75% of fatal cases now occurring in people aged 65 years and over.

“If we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million Covid-19 deaths in Europe and central Asia by the first of February next year, and 43 countries in our region will face high to extreme stress on hospital beds,” he said.

Authorities must accelerate vaccine rollouts, including booster shots for at-risk groups, he said: “Most people hospitalised and dying from Covid-19 today are not fully vaccinated.”

But public health measures such as test and trace, and social measures such as mask-wearing and distancing, were equally vital, he said, adding that WHO estimates suggested that 95% universal mask use in Europe and central Asia “could save up to 188,000 of the half a million lives we may lose” before February.

When applied “correctly and consistently”, preventive measures “allow us to go on with our lives, not the opposite”, Kluge said. “Preventive measures do not deprive people of their freedom, they ensure it.” Covid passes showing proof of vaccination should be viewed as “a collective tool towards individual liberty”.

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Published at Thu, 04 Nov 2021 14:45:51 +0000

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/04/covid-europe-epicentre-pandemic-who

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