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WHO: Europe Could Face Another 700,000 Covid Deaths by Next Spring

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Dr. Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe of the World Health Organization. Credit: NATO, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, said on Tuesday that the continent is facing a grim outlook for the future of the Covid-19 pandemic.

WHO Europe expects 700,000 more people to die from coronavirus across 53 countries within the coming months.

“Today, the COVID-19 situation across Europe and Central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead, but we should not be without hope, because all of us — governments, health authorities, individuals — can take decisive action to stabilize the pandemic,” Kluge said in a statement.

Europe is currently in the throes of one of the most intense Covid waves the region has seen since the start of the pandemic. Experts believe that this surge has been worsened by a combination of the waning strength of Covid vaccines administered earlier in the year and the highly contagious Delta variant.

“We can expect that there will be high or extreme stress on hospital beds in 25 countries, and high or extreme stress in intensive care units (ICUs) in 49 out of 53 countries between now and 1 March 2022,” read a statement issued by WHO Europe. “Cumulative reported deaths are projected to reach over 2.2 million by spring next year, based on current trends.”

Lockdowns sweep Europe as WHO warns of 700,000 Covid deaths by Spring 2022

The current surge across Europe has instigated a new series of lockdown measures and vaccine mandates across the continent. Austria initiated a national lockdown on Friday as France’s Industry Minister Agnes Panniere-Runacher also announced that they were “very cautiously” watching the continent’s climbing Covid-19 infection rates.

“The situation seems to be, and as you can see I am cautious, slightly better than in Austria and than in Germany. maybe it is because we have achieved a level of vaccination coverage that is quite high,” Pannier-Ranacher said to CNBC, noting that France was ahead in Europe’s tough battle against Covid.

“We have some kind of tight control on the sanitary situation but obviously we will follow that closely in the coming days.”

Austria heightened its anti-Covid measures on Friday, establishing perhaps the most stringent restrictions in western Europe as it prepares to introduce a vaccine mandate for its entire adult population come February.

Austria’s new lockdown will begin on Monday and is set to last for 10 days, but could potentially be extended to 20 days. This lockdown applies to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and follows Austria’s previous lockdown which prevented the unvaccinated for going outside for non-essential reasons.

The lockdowns for unvaccinated people began Monday. Austria currently has the lowest amount of fully vaccinated citizens of any western European country, with 64% of Austrians fully vaccinated.

France has a slightly higher vaccination rate than Austria, with 69% of its adult population having received the jab. Germany’s vaccination rate currently trails behind at 68%.

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