The regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Hans Kluge, had stern words for the nations in the European Union in a Thursday press conference, saying that the current coronavirus numbers around the continent add up to a “very serious situation.”
Warning that the current spikes seen in France and other nations at the end of the summer may not be the end of the problem but rather may only foreshadow an even worse recurrence of Covid-19 generally across Europe.
Several European nations have shown spikes in the number of positive coronavirus cases in the last several weeks, at the end of the traditional summertime vacation season. After reaping the benefits of lockdowns imposed in nearly all European nations early in the summer, the number of positive cases crept up once again at the end of August and in September.
Limited lockdowns and strict curfews have been reimposed in many vacation areas, including the Greek islands, to help curb the spread after localized outbreaks began to occur after the tourist season heated up.
Kluge told reporters that the efforts, however, have not been adequate, stating “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” adding “last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.”
More than one-half of the nations in Europe reported increases in positive cases of more than 10%, according to Kluge.
“Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period,” he said.
After experiencing heavy losses in tourism this year as a result of a ban on United States residents traveling to the continent, it is possible that Europe went a bit too far in opening its tourism and entertainment venues in a bid to increase much-needed revenues.
Kluge explained to reporters “In the spring and early summer we were able to see the impact of strict lockdown measures. Our efforts, our sacrifices, paid off. In June, cases hit an all-time low. The September case numbers, however, should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.
“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, they also show alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he warned starkly.
What may be most unsettling of all, the regional WHO director explained, is that the largest proportion of new cases is occurring in those in the 25-to-49 age bracket.
Kluge lamented “This pandemic has taken so much from us,” adding that there have been nearly 4.9 million verified Covid-19 cases in Europe — and more than 226,000 deaths in those who suffered with the virus.
“And this tells only part of the story,” Kluge admitted, adding “The impact on our mental health, economies, livelihoods and society has been monumental.”
The UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy have all seen large spikes in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
In the UK, which according to experts at the statistics website statisata.com, had the fifth-worst death rate per million on the globe, worse even than the United States, new restrictions have now been imposed after a summer which many spent outdoors, with minimal social distancing.
Currently, the UK has reported 41,773 deaths in those who succumbed with the disease, the highest rate anywhere in Europe. Now, no one there may meet in a group of more than six — either indoors or outdoors. According to a speech by Matt Hancock in Parliament today, even stricter rules will apply in northeast England, with a 10 PM curfew for all pubs, restaurants and leisure centers.
In France, where the iconic bicycle race the Tour de France is being held despite huge surges in coronavirus diagnoses, more than 31,000 people have lost their battle with the disease.
During the past weekend, with spectators lining the roads of the race which embodies France itself, the country saw 10,000 people in one day be diagnosed with the coronavirus.
At Thursday’s press conference, Kluge called for “an amplified collective effort by all European member states for the sake of all.
“The response to the crisis has been very effective whenever the actions were prompt and resolute, but the virus has shown (itself to be) merciless whenever partisanship and disinformation prevailed,” he warned.
“Where the pandemic goes from here is in our hands,” he challenged. “We have fought it back before and we can fight it back again.”