WHO sounds warning as COVID cases increase across Europe: 'We shouldn't be in this situation'

Dr Hans Kluge: 'Our health systems should not be in this situation.' (WHO Regional Office for Europe/YouTube)
Dr Hans Kluge: 'Our health systems should not be in this situation.' (WHO Regional Office for Europe/YouTube)
  • COVID cases rise 9% in Europe following six weeks of decline

  • Dr Hans Kluge, a WHO leader, bemoans: 'We shouldn't be in this situation'

  • He urges countries to 'get back to basics' and re-implement measures to drive down infections again

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A World Health Organization (WHO) leader has warned Europe “should not be in this situation” as coronavirus cases rose by 9% in the past week.

New infections have increased after six consecutive weeks of decline, with Dr Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO Europe, urging countries: “We need to get back to basics.”

At a press conference on Thursday, he pointed out there were more than one million new COVID-19 cases on the continent in the past week.

He said: “This brought a promising six-week decline in new cases to an end, with more than half of our region seeing increasing numbers of new infections.

“We are seeing a resurgence in central and eastern Europe. New cases are also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high.”

Dr Kluge said that “over a year into the pandemic, our health systems should not be in this situation” as he warned: “We need to get back to basics.”

Watch: UK's coronavirus vaccine in numbers

To counter the increase in cases, Dr Kluge said countries need:

  • to show increased vigilance for more transmissible variants of the virus

  • improved testing and contact tracing

  • stronger focus on preventing and controlling other diseases

  • measures to counter "pandemic fatigue"

  • to only end lockdowns "gradually" and be driven by evidence when doing so

  • an accelerated rollout of vaccines

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Dr Kluge's last point about vaccines comes as numerous European countries continue to encounter problems rolling out the jabs.

The following graphic, by Oxford University's Our World in Data website, shows how most European countries are lagging behind when measured in terms of doses administered per 100 people.

(Our World in Data)
(Our World in Data)

Meanwhile, European governments which previously managed to contain the pandemic have been forced to introduce emergency measures in recent days after a spike in cases. These include the Czech Republic and Finland.

Dr Kluge's warning on Thursday came a week after he said the pandemic may not be over until 2022, suggesting restrictions could still be in place for some time to come in many countries.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown