The World Health Organization’s Europe director is encouraging European nations to tighten controls as the continent struggles to contain what appears to be a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
At a virtual news briefing from his headquarters in Copenhagen, the WHO’s Dr. Hans Kluge said statistics show Europe is going through an early Fall-Winter surge. New COVID-19 infections are hitting 100,000 per day with nearly 700,000 new cases registered last week, the highest weekly number since the pandemic began. The region also has averaged 1,000 deaths per day, making COVID-19 the fifth leading cause of death on the continent.
But Kluge said the news is not all bad. He noted that while there are two to three times more cases reported now than during the initial COVID-19 peak in April, deaths are five times less likely than at that time. He credited part of that to the fact that younger, less vulnerable populations are contracting and spreading the virus.
However, as weather continues to cool in Europe, he warned there is potential for the virus to spread across generations as people gather more indoors.
But the WHO regional director said, “simple, swift tightening of protective measures now — such as enforcing widespread mask-wearing and controlling social gatherings in public or private spaces — could save up to 281,000 lives by February across the 53 countries.”
He says the reverse is true as well — a prolonged relaxing of restrictions could raise death rates to four or five times higher than they were in April.
The WHO European director’s comments come as Britain, France, Germany and other nations have each announced tougher new measures in the last few days to control the spread of the virus.