Europe could see 500,000 more Covid deaths by early 2022, WHO warns

People wait in line in front of a vaccination station that is installed at a supermarket in Vienna.
People wait in line in front of a vaccination station that is installed at a supermarket in Vienna. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)
The rising number of cases of Covid-19 in Europe is of "grave concern" and the region could see another half a million deaths by early next year, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday.

With 78 million cases in the WHO’s European region — which spans 53 countries and territories and includes several nations in Central Asia — the cumulative toll now exceeded that of South East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Western Pacific, and Africa combined, the organisation said.

The warning came as Germany recorded its highest number of daily Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic, whilst France recorded over 10,000 daily cases on Wednesday for the first time since mid-September.

New Covid cases have also undergone a dramatic rise in Switzerland, where vaccination rates are well behind those of its neighbours. 

READ ALSO: Why are Covid-19 infections in Germany rising?

“We are, once again, at the epicentre,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference.

Kluge noted that the “current pace of transmission across the 53 countries of the European Region is of grave concern.”

According to “one reliable projection” the current trajectory would mean “another half a million Covid-19 deaths” by February, Kluge added.

The increases were observed “across all age groups,” he said.

Kluge blamed the soaring caseload on “insufficient vaccination coverage” and “the relaxation of public health and social measures.”

Hospital admission rates were higher in countries with lower vaccination rates, he said.

Measures like testing, tracing, physical distancing and the use of face masks were still part of the “arsenal” in fighting the virus.

‘Change tactics’

“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” Kluge said.

The number of new cases per day has been rising for nearly six consecutive weeks in Europe and the number of new deaths per day has been rising for just over seven consecutive weeks, with about 250,000 cases and 3,600 deaths per day, according to official country data compiled by AFP.

Over the past seven days, Russia has led the rise with 8,162 deaths, followed by Ukraine with 3,819 deaths and and Romania with 3,100 deaths, according to the data.


Member comments

  1. What a load of tosh !!!!
    Could, should, would…….all based on phone mathematical models that proved totally wrong in the end.
    This is scare mongering at best. It reminds me doctors in France appearing masked on tv in February forecasting people would die on stretchers in hospital hallways.
    Thank God, Macron slammed his fist on the table saying he had enough and refused to lockdown. He was right. Nothing of the forecasted doomsday happened.
    The same is happening now, doctors appearing again masked on tv to the bewilderment of their interviewers.
    Remember Pr Ferguson in the UK, the very one caught with his pants down…..500 000 deaths in the UK…..no less…..
    Do we count the number of flue cases every year ? Nope !! Do we count the number of people flue vaccinated ? Nope !! Does flue kill ? you bet !!!
    Here in France the nonsense is again in full thrust……children age 10 have to mask in schools and it irritates me to see Sweden flogging itself about the way it handled the COVID crisis.

    1. Numbers of flu cases, vaccinations and deaths are indeed counted.
      Percentage chance of dying from seasonal flu is much less than dying from Covid.
      See for example this article in The Lancet containing data from France.
      “Comparison of the characteristics, morbidity, and mortality of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza: a nationwide, population-based retrospective cohort study” December 2020.
      It says, in part, “89 530 patients with COVID-19 and 45 819 patients with influenza were hospitalised in France during the respective study periods….Patients with COVID-19 were more likely to need intensive care, and the mean length of stay in the ICU for COVID-19 was twice as long (15 days [SD 14] for COVID-19 vs 8 days [9] for influenza; table 2). A quarter of patients with COVID-19 remained in the ICU for more than 3 weeks (table 2). Patients with COVID-19 were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation than patients with influenza. If admitted to the ICU, patients with COVID-19 were also more likely to need mechanical ventilation than patients with influenza. In-hospital mortality was higher in patients hospitalised for COVID-19 than patients hospitalised for influenza, with a relative risk of death of 2·9 (95% CI 2·8–3·0). We found a standardised mortality ratio of 2·82. Therefore, the number of observed deaths was considerably higher than what would be expected if the COVID-19 population had the same probability of dying as the influenza population. Mortality was also higher in patients with COVID-19 who were admitted to the ICU, whether they were mechanically ventilated or not. After stratifying patients according to the main comorbidities, the in-hospital mortality for patients with COVID-19 was roughly three-times higher than that of patients with influenza, for all the main comorbidities except pulmonary bacterial coinfection, for which in-hospital mortality was two-times higher for patients with COVID-19 “.

  2. Point taken. thanks.
    But my rant had more to do with scaremongering models that until now have proved themselves to be totally wrong.
    Scaring the wit out of people is totally counter productive……..in the end people are sick of it and just want to live normally.
    The number of COVID cases is now pretty disconnected from the number of hospitalised cases who for the vast majority are un vaccinated.
    Getting vaccinated is a no brainer as far as I am concerned.
    It was Sweden but it could have been any other country ……..it showed coolness under pressure and history will show that, all figures balanced …….it will have fared far better than the vast majority.
    Melbourne Australia……361 days of lockdown ( 111 + 250 ) …..New Zealand…..the zero COVID proved to be a total ……global failure and the truth is that New Zealand health system was just bare to the bone and unable to even tackle a fraction of this pandemic.

    1. As an Australian living near Melbourne, I can point out that although there has been much opposition to lockdowns, most people supported them. Australia has avoided the worst of COVID-19 and I, for one, support the sort of measures that avoided the worst of the pandemic plagued Europe in 2020. Models are never exact, and no one producing them expects them to be. They are an essential aid to planning. Anger is not.

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