The soaring number of Covid-19 cases in Europe is of “great concern”, but the situation is still better than the peaks in April, the World Health Organization’s regional office said Thursday.
“Daily numbers of cases are up, hospital admissions are up,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told a press conference.
“Covid is now the fifth leading cause of deaths and the bar of a 1,000 deaths per day has now been reached.”
But he said that “we are not” in the situation experienced in March and April.
“Although we record two to three times more cases per day compared to the April peak, we still observe five times less deaths, and the doubling time in hospital admissions is still two to three times longer,” Kluge said.
He said part of the increase could be traced to a higher level of testing among younger people, and the lower mortality could be explained by the virus spreading in younger, less vulnerable groups.
However, Kluge added that if measures against the virus were relaxed, projections showed that by January 2021 mortality levels could be four to five times those recorded in April.
Conversely, “simple measures” such as widespread mask use coupled with strict control of social gatherings could save over 280,000 lives by February.
While Kluge said that it was time “to step up the measures,” he stressed that this should be done in a gradual way.
He said that what was called a “lockdown” six months ago — a shutdown “where every corner of our society and economy has been halted” — was not the same as what it should be today.
Kluge encouraged governments not to “hold back with relatively smaller actions, in order to avoid the same very painful and damaging actions.”
“The collateral damage on the people was too much,” Kluge said.
Decisions on nationwide measures should therefore also take into account factors like “mental health” and “domestic violence.”
Kluge also said countries should do everything in their “power to keep schools open,” and develop policies for “at-risk children with special learning needs or health conditions”.
WHO Europe includes 53 countries, including Russia and countries in Central Asia, and among member countries over 7.25 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded and nearly 250,000 deaths.
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