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WHO says coronavirus cases jumped by 11% in Europe in the last week

Austria is already back in lockdown.

Image: Shutterstock/LL_studio

Updated Nov 24th 2021, 9:43 PM

THE WORLD HEALTH Organisation said that coronavirus cases jumped by 11% in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where Covid-19 has continued to increase since mid-October.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released yesterday, the UN health agency said cases and deaths globally have risen by about 6%, with about 3.6 million new infections and 51,00 new deaths reported in the previous week.

WHO’s Europe director Dr Hans Kluge warned that without urgent measures taken soon, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

“The European region remains in the firm grip of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Kluge said, calling for countries to increase vaccination and to take other control measures like masking and social distancing to avoid “the last resort of lockdowns”.

He noted that while more than one billion vaccine doses have been administered across WHO’s European region, which stretches to central Asia, the range in vaccination coverage varies from 10% to 80%.

In the last week, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium have all adopted stricter measures including partial lockdowns to try to stem the latest surge of the coronavirus.

Germany is also set to record more than 100,000 Covid-19 deaths this week, with some politicians now calling for a vaccine mandate, like the one ordered in Austria.

Globally, WHO reported that Covid-19 in Southeast Asia and the Middle East dropped by 11% and 9% respectively.

The biggest decrease in coronavirus deaths in the last week was seen in Africa, where fatalities fell by 30%, continuing a decreasing trend in Covid-19 that first began in late June.

Although cases remained stable in the Americas, WHO said the number of deaths rose by about 19%.

The agency said the easier-to-spread delta variant remains the predominant version of Covid-19 globally. Of the more than 840,000 sequences uploaded to the biggest publicly available database of viruses in the last week, about 99.8% were the delta variant.

Other variants including mu, lambda and gamma made up fewer than 1% — although they continue to make up a significant proportion of sequences from Latin America.

In the European Union, 67.7% of the population is fully vaccinated.

But rates vary widely between countries, with low levels in many eastern countries. Only 24.2% of Bulgarians are fully vaccinated, compared with 86.7%  in Portugal.

According to WHO data, Covid-related deaths in Europe increased last week to almost 4,200 a day, doubling from 2,100 a day at the end of September.

It said evidence was growing that vaccine-induced protection against infection and mild disease was declining.

Dr Michael Ryan, who is Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, last night warned that Europe is “approaching the worst days of the pandemic again”.

Speaking on Prime Time, he urged people to get the jab if they have not yet already and to “do the maths”. 

“Look at your odds of being very, very sick or ending up with a ventilator. If you’re not vaccinated, they are so much higher.”

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Booster shots

Several countries, including Greece, France and Germany, are moving towards requiring a third booster shot for someone to be considered fully vaccinated.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany is not doing enough to curb its “highly dramatic” fourth wave of the pandemic.

With intensive care beds swiftly filling up and its weekly incidence rate at an all-time high of 399.8 new infections per 100,000 people, Germany’s worst-hit regions have ordered new shutdowns.

The German military is expected to add coronavirus jabs to the list of mandatory vaccines for soldiers “soon”, a defence ministry spokesman said.

The move would make troops the first German public servants to be obliged to be jabbed against the virus.

It comes as the army is preparing to deploy soldiers to help local authorities with vaccinations, tests and other efforts to counter soaring infection rates expected in the weeks ahead.

With reporting by Garreth MacNamee and Press Association

© AFP, 2021

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