Europe's weekly COVID-19 infections 'now higher than peak in March'

Europe’s weekly COVID-19 infections are now higher than the continent’s first coronavirus peak in March, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

“We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe.

Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.

Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 cases, while in late Spring (March 30) it stood at 264,675.

More than half of European countries have reported a greater than 10 per cent increase in cases in the past two weeks. Of those, seven countries have seen newly-reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period.

“In the spring and early summer, we were able to see the impact of strict lockdown measures,” Kluge said. “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.”

“This pandemic has taken so much from us,” the WHO chief said.

In Europe 4,893,614 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded and 226,524 deaths but there has also been the impact on our mental health, economies, livelihoods and society has been monumental, the organisation said.

The public health agency called for regional coherence in efforts against COVID-19 and an amplified collective effort by all European Member States.

It also warned against “COVID-related fatigue” and said this was being reported in populations across the bloc.

“Fatigue is an expected and natural response to a long-standing public health crisis, which for everyone has had considerable implications for everyday life,” Kluge said.

“Understanding who is experiencing fatigue and the barriers and drivers they experience in taking up protection behaviours allows to segment and tailor actions to those who need it the most, and based on the needs of specific population groups.”

He added that whenever measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus were prompt and resolute, they been effective but, it added, “the virus has been merciless whenever partisanship and disinformation prevailed”.

“Where the pandemic goes from here is in our hands. We have fought it back before and we can fight it back again,” the WHO director added.