Covid is once again sweeping across Europe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Europe is becoming an epicenter of Covid. The resurgence in cases has been linked to insufficient vaccination rates in some countries, and the relaxation of public health and safety measures to stop it from spreading.
WHO Europe includes 53 countries in Europe and central Asia, with member countries having vast degrees of vaccination rates. But the WHO regional director Dr. Hans Kluge said that every country in the region is facing a “real threat” of a resurgence, or is already currently fighting it.
In Europe, there were nearly 1.8 million new cases last week. Twenty four thousand new deaths were reported. These numbers mean there was a six percent increase in infections and 12 percent increase in fatalities compared to the week prior.
If Europe continues on this trajectory, Kluge predicts there could be another 500,000 Covid-related deaths by February alone, which is only three months away.
While this latest wave has brought fewer deaths and death rates are much lower in many European countries, there are still concerns over lagging vaccination rates. The average vaccination rate in the European Union — which comprises fewer countries than the WHO Europe region — is 67 percent. Typically countries in Western Europe have higher vaccination rates than those in the East.
Russia, which is included in the WHO European coverage, has only a third of its population vaccinated, and has seen a two-month surge in cases and deaths. Russia is now the country with the most Covid deaths.
In Germany, health officials gave stern warnings that the country was seeing its fourth wave, and urged people to take up vaccines, or the country will have “a great deal of suffering.”
Austria today became the first country to impose lockdowns for unvaccinated populations. The country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe at 65 percent.