Health officials in Europe are advocating for people to take more health precautions as the region grapples with its biggest increase in COVID-19 cases to date in the pandemic.
Cases have skyrocketed across the European region since early October, with cases rising from around 130,000 per day to the current record of over 330,000 per day. For the week ending November 21, the region of 53 countries, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, Russia and several countries in Central Asia, reported 2,427,657 new cases, or 67% of all COVID-19 cases reported around the world.
The region also accounted for 57% of all COVID-19 deaths globally, with 29,465 deaths in the week ending November 21, according to a weekly report by the World Health Organization. During the week, daily deaths from COVID-19 rose to nearly 4,200, doubling from the 2,100 daily deaths recorded at the end of September, WHO noted.
The countries now registering the most new cases per day are Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and Turkey, according to the New York Times data tracker. Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Germany report the region’s highest daily death toll.
At this point in the pandemic, the European region has recorded more than 1.51 million deaths, and COVID-19 is the leading cause of death. With the current surge, deaths are expected to reach more than 2.2 million by next spring, and authorities expect “high and extreme stress” on health systems in dozens of countries.
“Duty to society”
In a blunt statement on Monday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that “by the end of this winter, everyone in Germany will either be vaccinated, cured or deadGiven the options, Spahn urged the Germans to get vaccinated. The country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with just 68% of people fully vaccinated. While Spahn has said he is against establishing vaccination warrants, he called vaccination a “moral obligation.”
“Freedom is taking responsibility, and there is a duty to society to get vaccinated,” he said.
WHO officials, for their part, stressed the need to resume public health precautions in addition to being vaccinated. “In order to live with this virus and continue with our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach,” Dr Hans Henri Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in a statement. “This means receiving standard doses of vaccine, taking a booster if offered, as well as incorporating preventative measures into our normal routines. Together, wear a mask, wash hands, ventilate indoor spaces, keep physical distance and sneezing into your elbow are simple and effective ways to control the virus and keep societies running. “
In a press briefing on WednesdayWHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed this, saying the whole world must remain vigilant.
“In many countries and communities, we are concerned about the false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic and that vaccinated people do not need to take other precautions,” said Dr Tedros. “Vaccines save lives, but they do not completely prevent transmission.” Fully vaccinated people can still get virus infections and spread the virus. And with continuous transmission comes the continuous risk that new variants will emerge.
“As Europe is once again the epicenter of the pandemic, no country or region has come out of the woods,” warned Dr Tedros.