The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Europe is still “firmly grasping” the coronavirus pandemic, and if current trends continue, the number of deaths on the continent this winter may exceed 2.2 million.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that by March 1, in addition to the 1.5 million people who have died from the virus, 700,000 Europeans may die.
It predicts that “from now until March 1, 2022, the intensive care unit (ICU) in 49 of the 53 countries will face high or extreme pressure.”
The return of Europe as the epicenter of the pandemic has been blamed on slow vaccination in some countries, highly contagious delta variants, cold weather once again moving people indoors and relaxing restrictions.
The surge caused Austria to resume its blockade this week, while Germany and the Netherlands are preparing to announce new restrictions.
In the European Union, 67.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
However, the ratios vary greatly among countries, and many Eastern countries have low ratios. Only 24.2% of Bulgarians are fully vaccinated, compared to 86.7% in Portugal.
According to WHO data, the number of COVID-related deaths in 53 countries in the European region increased to nearly 4,200 per day last week, double the 2,100 per day at the end of September.
It said there is increasing evidence that the protection against infections and mild diseases caused by vaccines is declining.
Several countries, including Greece, France and Germany, are moving towards the goal of requiring a third vaccination.
At the same time, Austria closed stores, restaurants and festival markets on Monday, which is the strictest restriction in Western Europe in months.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany has not done enough to contain its “extremely dramatic” fourth wave of pandemic.
With the rapid filling of intensive care beds and the weekly morbidity rate hitting a record high of 399.8 new infections per 100,000 people, the worst-hit areas in Germany have been ordered to close, including the Christmas market.
Dominic Kane of Al Jazeera reported from Berlin that he said that there are two milestones in the minds of Germans.
“It’s over the first one,” he said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 5 million cases in the country. The second and possibly more psychologically important event may occur within the next two days: 100,000 people in this country have died from the coronavirus.”
Kane said the current number of COVID deaths in the country is less than 99,000, but 300 people die from COVID every day.
‘The Coming Winter’
The WHO stated that a large number of unvaccinated people and “reduction of protection caused by vaccines” are one of the factors that cause high transmission in Europe, as well as the dominance of delta variants and the relaxation of health measures.
Hans Kruger, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said that Europe and Central Asia “will face a challenging winter in the future.”
He called for a “vaccine plus” approach, including a combination of vaccination, social distancing, the use of masks and hand washing.
According to the WHO, according to a recent study, wearing masks can reduce the incidence of COVID by 53%. “If a 95% mask coverage rate for the entire population is achieved, more than 160,000 deaths can be prevented (by March 1).”
However, the prospect of re-imposing restrictions in the winter has caused turmoil in many countries.
On Tuesday, the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in Belgium, the Netherlands and France were still in trouble due to violent protests against new anti-coronavirus measures.
The Dutch police arrested at least 21 people on the fourth night of the conflict, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte referred to them as “idiots” as “pure violence”.
The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands set a new weekly record on Tuesday, climbing 39%, and the number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions has also risen sharply, prompting the government to once again force all adults to maintain social distancing.
The Dutch government has also introduced a piece of legislation that, if the infection rate continues to rise, it will clear the way for people who have not been vaccinated to enter indoor places such as bars, restaurants and museums. The bill is expected to be debated in Parliament next week.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reported from Rotterdam that he said the surge in cases was “shocking” and that there were deep differences over the prospects of social restrictions becoming law.
“People are still worried about the restrictions here because the level of restrictions is quite high. Now, the move to incorporate some of these restrictions into the law makes some people very worried. There is a division of labor.”
“The shocking fact is that 84% of the people here are vaccinated. So this is a high vaccination rate and a high infection rate. This situation shocked everyone involved.”