Frankfurt (AFP) – The World Health Organization expressed “grave concern” Thursday over the rising pace of coronavirus infections in Europe, as Germany registered its biggest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.
“We are, once again, at the epicentre,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference.
He warned that according to “one reliable projection” the current trajectory would mean “another half a million Covid-19 deaths” by February.
Alarm bells were ringing especially in Germany, the European Union’s most populous country, where the number of new cases over the past 24 hours soared to almost 34,000 on Thursday — an all-time high, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency.
Meanwhile Britain on Thursday became the first country in the world to approve the use of Merck’s anti-Covid pill to treat patients suffering from mild to moderate coronavirus infections.
Health minister Sajid Javid called the molnupiravir antiviral “a game-changer for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed”.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday that the country of 83 million people was facing a “massive” pandemic among the unvaccinated and that intensive care beds were starting to run out in some regions.
“Corona is once again raging with full force, the fourth wave is hitting us hard,” the top-selling Bild daily wrote.
The WHO’s Europe region — which spans 53 countries and territories and includes several nations in Central Asia — has now recorded 78 million cases since Covid-19 first emerged in China in late 2019.
Five million deaths
The cumulative figure exceeds that of South East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Western Pacific, and Africa combined, the organisation said.
The “current pace of transmission” across the European region “is of grave concern”, Kluge said.
The WHO blamed a combination of insufficient vaccination rates and a relaxation of preventative measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
Hospital admission rates were higher in countries where fewer people are vaccinated, Kluge added.
The number of new daily cases has been rising for nearly six consecutive weeks in Europe and the number of new deaths per day has been rising for just over seven consecutive weeks, with about 250,000 cases and 3,600 deaths per day, according to official national data compiled by AFP.