People thronged the streets during the first regulated day of exercise and walks due to the Covid-19 infection. (Photo by Paco Freire / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)
Paco Freire | SOPA pictures | LightRocket via Getty Images
Europe has seen a sharp rise in the number of new Covid-19 infections in recent weeks, reflecting an alarming trend as the World Health Organization warns, "No country can just pretend the pandemic is over."
According to the WHO, the number of new coronavirus cases reported in the region rose by 5.6% in the week to 23 August to a total of just over 4 million cases.
These new cases represented a 6% increase from the previous week and a 72% increase from the week ended June 7, when the lowest number of cases were reported per week.
More than half of the new cases reported in the week ending August 23 came from four countries: Spain (21%), Russia (16%), France (10%) and Ukraine (6%). Spain has registered nearly 463,000 coronavirus cases so far, while the total number of infections in Russia topped 1 million on Tuesday.
The number of new cases is picking up again as many countries try to reopen their economies, get people back to work, while meeting public health goals.
However, the WHO previously warned against easing public health measures. In addition to people "dropping their guard," it could help explain the recurrence of the virus across the region.
"WHO fully supports efforts to reopen the economy and society. We want children to return to school and people to return to work – but we want it to be safe," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference on Monday.
"At the same time, no country can pretend the pandemic is over. The reality is that this coronavirus is easy to spread, can be fatal to people of all ages, and most people remain vulnerable," he added.
The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, will take part in a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019) in Geneva on February 28, 2020.
Denis Balibouse | Reuters
On July 19, the 7-day rolling average of our daily coronavirus cases per million people on Our World in Data showed that the US reported nearly 20 times as many cases as the European Union.
An increase in the number of infections across the bloc, as alongside a steady decline in the number of confirmed cases in the US, the same moving average means the US now has just over three times the number of infections compared to the EU.
The U.S. has reported the world's worst Covid-19 outbreak, with over 6 million confirmed cases of the virus and 183,598 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Escalation risk "high"
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the 14-day reporting rate for the European Union, the European Economic Area and the United Kingdom was 46 per 100,000 population on August 26. The rate has been rising for 38 days.
The ECDC said the Covid-19 death rate for the EU, EEA and the UK was four per million people. The rate has been stable for 53 days.
The latest ECDC risk assessment found that the risk of Covid-19 escalating further in countries where hospital admissions were reported to be increasing was "high", "which is a strong indication that a real increase in transmission is occurring" .
The ECDC also said the risk of escalation is "very high" for countries if they fail to enforce multiple policies, including physical distancing, contact tracing, and if they do not have adequate testing capacity.
Cyclists ride along the Mall near Buckingham Palace in central London on May 16, 2020.
JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | Getty Images
Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe, told Sky News on Tuesday that he does not expect a return to full restrictions at the national level in the coming months.
"I'm optimistic, but we cannot rule out localized suspensions," said Kluge.
Several European countries have put in place travel restrictions, physical distancing measures and procedures for wearing masks to prevent the virus from spreading.
Health experts have warned that a potential new wave of Covid-19 infections could be more serious than the first.