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COVID deaths higher in Europe now than one year ago, WHO says

The New York Daily News - 3/18/2021

The number of people dying from COVID-19 in Europe is higher than it was one year ago, when the virus first ripped across the continent and completely altered the way of life there.

“Last week marked one year since the World Health Organization announced that the Public Health Emergency of International Concern declared on 30 January 2020 represented the first ever pandemic caused by a coronavirus,” said Hans Kluge, the U.N. agency’s regional director for Europe.

Since then, the block of nations has seen more than 42 million COVID-19 cases, making up more than a third of the 120 million infections around the world.

Kluge during a press conference on Wednesday also praised frontline workers for their heroism and lauded the scientific achievements reached to combat the virus. But he also made it clear the group of countries was far from out of the wood, citing three straight weeks of increase in coronavirus cases.

In the last seven days alone, more than 1.2 million people were infected with the disease.

The growing number of cases has in part been fueled by a coronavirus variant that first emerged in Britain earlier this year. The mutated strain, called B.1.1.7, can be up to more than 50% transmissible than the one first detected in the Chinese City of Wuhan in December 2019.

At least 48 out of 53 countries in the region — reaching from western Europe to Russia — have reported cases of the variant.

“The current situation is most acute in parts of the Region that were successful in controlling the disease in the first 6 months of 2020. It is in central Europe, the Balkans & Baltic states where case incidence, hospitalizations & deaths are now among the highest in the world,” Kluge noted.

“Last week, new deaths in the region surpassed 900,000. Every week, more than 20,000 people lose their lives to the virus.

The recent figures represent “the widespread hold this virus has” had, Kluge said.

While vaccination efforts are well underway across the continent, the WHO Director explained that the region has not yet seen the widespread positive impacts that will allow a return to normalcy.

“Let there be no doubt about it, vaccination by itself – particularly given the varied uptake in countries - does not replace public health and social measures,” he said.

“As vaccine uptake increases, their broader impact will become visible, and studies like these, will guide policy and improve our understanding of how the different vaccines contribute to our response.”


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