Another 700 thousand people may die in the region by spring

A patient suffering from COVID-19 is being treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) at the Darmstadt Klinikum in Darmstadt, Germany, May 20, 2021.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

In Europe and Central Asia, the total number of deaths from COVID-19 could reach 2.2 million by March next year as countries grapple with a spike in the highly infectious delta variant, the World Health Organization’s regional office said in a statement on Tuesday.

A region of 53 countries is forecast to surpass 1.5 million deaths from Covid in the coming months, with the virus now becoming the leading cause of death in both Europe and Central Asia, the WHO Europe Office said. About 4,200 people are now dying in the region every day, the statement said, double the daily death toll recorded at the end of September.

The WHO Regional Office in Copenhagen, Denmark, covers Europe as well as Israel, Turkey and Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“To live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a vaccine plus approach,” said Dr Hans Anri Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in a statement. “This means getting standard doses of vaccine, booster vaccinations if offered, and incorporating preventive measures into our daily lives.”

In addition to the increased infectiousness of delta deformities, the statement blamed the region’s unvaccinated population and the decision of many countries to stop wearing masks and social distancing for the sharp growth of the region. The WHO has previously warned that winter could trigger outbreaks in Europe as people gather together in poorly ventilated enclosed spaces, contributing to the transmission of the virus.

Preparing for a “tough winter,” Kluge called on the public to help avoid lockdowns and economic disruptions by taking precautions including camouflage, physical distancing, and testing and contact tracing. The statement also calls on countries to consider giving booster doses to medical personnel and everyone over 60 years of age to combat the declining efficacy of the vaccines available.

WHO expects 49 of the 53 countries in the region may face high or extreme workloads on their intensive care units by March 2022. High or extreme hospital bed burdens are also projected to affect 25 countries.

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

Germany set a pandemic record on Monday with an average of more than 51,000 new cases per day in seven days, according to CNBC’s analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Russia reported a record high seven-day average of nearly 1,218 coronavirus deaths in the week ending Monday, according to Hopkins.

The rise in infections in Austria prompted Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg to introduce a nationwide vaccination mandate from 1 February and begin a fourth lockdown in the country on Monday. The government in Vienna said the isolation would last no more than 20 days. The Netherlands also imposed a partial lockdown on Saturday, prematurely closing some businesses and banning fans from attending sporting events for three weeks.

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel also called for tougher measures to contain the spread of infection in Europe’s largest economy.

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