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20th Jan 2022

Covid surge puts Europe at epicentre of pandemic again

  • The World Health Organisation said the countries where vaccine uptake was low, like in the Baltics, central and eastern Europe and the Balkans, hospital admissions were 'markedly higher' (Photo: morberg)
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The European region is once again the "epicentre of the pandemic," where health systems face a "real threat" of Covid-19 resurgence or are already fighting it, the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday (4 November).

The transmission rate in the region is of "grave concern," with Covid-19 cases being now at near-record levels, Europe WHO's chief Hans Kluge told a media briefing.

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"We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence," he also said, calling on countries to scale up their efforts to prevent a worsening situation.

"We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place," Kluge added.

New cases in the WHO 43-countries region have increased by six percent over the last week, compared to the week before. And the number of deaths has also jumped by 12 percent over the same period.

Meanwhile, hospitalisations have also doubled in one week.

However, Kluge warned that Europe will face "high to extreme stress on hospital beds" at some point by February next year, if the region follows the current trajectory.

He added that the rapid increase in infections in the older population groups is "of most concern," especially because this is translating into more severe diseases and deaths.

Currently, 75 percent of fatalities are among people aged 65 or older – although the picture varies significantly among countries.

Kluge said the countries where vaccine uptake was low, like in the Baltics, central and eastern Europe and the Balkans, hospital admissions were "markedly higher".

"Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic – where we were one year ago," he pointed out, arguing that the difference today is that public authorities know more and can do more to reduce the virus spread.

Several countries in central and eastern Europe have seen an increase in daily cases over the last weeks.

Due to high hospital occupancy rate and ICU admissions, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been categorised as of "very high concern" by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, a Stockholm-based EU agency.

"The epidemiological situation in Europe is very concerning now as we head into the winter with increases in infection rates, hospitalisation and we can also see the increase in fatalities," said Fergus Sweeney, head of clinical studies and manufacturing task force from the European Medicines Agency.

He stressed that it was very important for the public to get fully vaccinated.

In Bulgaria, the EU's least-vaccinated nation, less than 27 percent adult population has received two jabs of a Covid-19 vaccine.

In comparison, more than 90 percent of the adult population in Ireland, Malta and Portugal are fully vaccinated.

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The macabre scenes, with town halls across the country using excavators to dig burial plots for recently Covid-deceased, as cemeteries and undertakers can no longer cope, has led to a surge in those wanting to vaccinate.

EU exported over one billion vaccines so far

The EU has exported more than one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines this year, and announced it will donate 500 million extra doses to poorer countries in the coming months.

Baltic states lead Covid surge across east Europe

The surge of Covid-19 infections in eastern EU member countries, particularly the Baltic states, is putting health systems under increasing pressure, prompting governments to reimpose restrictive measures.

Central Europe struggles with new Covid-19 wave

A new wave of Covid-19 infections has been sweeping through central Europe, where the vaccination rate is generally below the EU average - partly due to low trust in institutions.

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