Europe’s death toll from Covid will exceed two million people by next spring, the World Health Organization projected on Tuesday, adding that the continent remained “firmly in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Covid is now the leading cause of death in Europe, the W.H.O. said in a statement, with almost 4,200 new deaths a day, double the number at the end of September. To date, Europe, including the United Kingdom and Russia, has reported 1.5 million deaths. Between now and spring, hospital beds in 25 countries and intensive care units in 49 countries are predicted to experience “high or extreme stress,” the W.H.O. said.
Dr. Hans Kluge, a regional director for the W.H.O., said Europe faces a challenging winter. “In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach,” he said.
That means getting vaccinations or booster shots if offered and taking other preventive measures to avoid the reimposing of lockdowns, like calling on the public to wear masks and maintain physical distance, he said.
Over one billion vaccine doses have been administered in Europe; about 53 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. But countries have gaping disparities in vaccination rates, the organization said, and it was essential to drive the lagging rates up, the officials said.
In recent days, European countries have imposed restrictions to try to curb the highest surge of new cases in the region since the pandemic began. Austria on Monday began its fourth lockdown and Germany is pressuring its citizens to get vaccinated. Slovakia, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic have the world’s highest rates of new cases compared to their populations.
The W.H.O. considers Europe to include not only the countries of the European Union, but also the United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and several countries in the Balkans and Central Asia.