European COVID-19 cases have dropped for two straight months, and deaths fell below 10,000 last week, but the total vaccination cover is not enough, the World Health Organization regional chief said Thursday.
“To date in the European region, we have 55 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1.2 million deaths. That is 32% of cases reported globally, and 31% of all deaths,” said Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe.
The 53 countries in the WHO Europe region, extending from Greenland in the northwest to the Russian Far East, have seen a decline in hospitalizations and deaths.
A total of 368,000 new cases were reported last week – a fifth of the weekly cases reported during Europe’s recent peak in April, said Kluge.
“For the first time since last autumn, new deaths dipped below 10,000 last week,” he noted.
This week, some 36 countries out of 53 are easing restrictions due to declining COVID-19 infections.
“Whilst we should all recognize the progress made across most countries in the region, we must also acknowledge that we are by no means out of danger,” he cautioned.
He said the WHO is urging caution due to increasing social gatherings, greater population mobility, large festivals, and sports tournaments taking place.
COVID-19 notification rates across the region show that widespread community transmission continues.
“The new Delta variant of concern, which shows increased transmissibility and some immune escape, is poised to take hold, while many among vulnerable populations above the age of 60 remain unprotected,” explained the WHO official.
‘Been there before’
“We have been here before,” he noted.
During the last northern hemisphere’s summer, cases rose gradually in younger age groups, then moved into older age groups, leading to a devastating resurgence, lockdowns, and loss of life in 2020’s autumn and winter.
“Let’s not make that mistake again,” said Kluge in a statement.
“If you choose to travel, do it responsibly. Be conscious of the risks. Apply common sense and don’t jeopardize hard-earned gains.”
He said people should wash their hands frequently, keep a distance, choose open settings, and wear a mask.
“Avoid the three Cs – settings that are closely confined or crowded will put you at higher risk,” said the WHO official.
He said that in six months, more than 400 million vaccine doses had been administered in the European region.
In the summer, vaccination needs to happen at a much faster pace.
As of June 10, 30% of people in the region had received at least one vaccine dose, and 17% have completed their series.
“Although we’ve come far, we haven’t come far enough,” said Kluge.
“The distance to go before reaching at least 80% coverage of the adult population is still considerable.”