The region could suffer an additional 700,000 Covid deaths by spring


Health and Science

A patient suffering from COVID-19 will be treated on May 20th, 2021 in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Darmstadt Clinic in Darmstadt.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

Europe and Central Asia could total more than 2.2 million Covid-19 deaths by next March as countries battle a surge in the highly transmissible Delta variant, the World Health Organization’s office for the region wrote in a statement released Tuesday .

The forecast for the coming months comes when the 53-country region exceeds 1.5 million Covid deaths, with the virus now becoming the leading cause of death in both Europe and Central Asia, the WHO European branch said. The region currently has nearly 4,200 deaths per day, double the daily deaths recorded in late September, the statement said.

The WHO regional office in Copenhagen, Denmark, covers Europe as well as Israel, Turkey and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach,” said Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in the statement. “This means getting the standard doses of the vaccine, getting a booster dose if offered, and integrating preventive measures into our normal routines.”

In addition to the Delta tribe’s increased contagiousness, the declaration blamed the continent’s unvaccinated population and many countries’ decision to phase out mask wear and social distancing responsible for the region’s surge. The WHO previously warned that winter could cause outbreaks in Europe as people gather closely together indoors with poor ventilation, conditions that facilitate transmission of the virus.

In preparation for a “challenging winter,” Kluge urged the public to avoid lockdowns and disruptions to the economy by taking precautions, including the use of face-covering, physical distancing, and testing and contact tracing. The statement also called on countries to consider giving booster doses to health workers and anyone over 60 to combat the declining effectiveness of available vaccines.

The WHO estimates that 49 of the 53 countries in the region could experience high or extreme stress in their intensive care units by March 2022. It is expected that 25 countries will also be affected by high or extreme stress on hospital beds.

Infections in the region began to rise in the week ending September 19, when WHO researchers measured a total of about 1.1 million new cases over seven days. The organization reported more than 2.4 million new cases in the week ending November 21. According to the latest weekly epidemiological update from the WHO, that is around 67% of all Covid cases worldwide during this period.

According to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, Germany set a pandemic record on Monday with a seven-day average of more than 51,000 new cases every day. And Russia reported a record seven-day average of nearly 1,218 daily Covid deaths for the week that ended Monday, Hopkins measured.

Rising infections in Austria prompted Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg to issue a nationwide vaccination mandate with effect from February 1 and to initiate the fourth lockdown in the country on Monday. The government in Vienna said the lockdown would not last more than 20 days. The Netherlands also rolled out a partial lockdown on Saturday that closed certain stores early and prevented fans from attending sporting events for three weeks.

The outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has also called for tougher measures to contain the wave of infections in Europe’s largest economy.

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