The World Health Organization has warned that another 500,000 people could die of Covid by March next year in Europe unless urgent action is taken.
The WHO’s Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge, said he was very worried about a fresh wave of infections that has spread across the continent, with countries announcing new restrictions.
A fresh wave of infections has spread across the continent, with Austria announcing this week that it would become the first country to legally require people to have the vaccines from February. It has the lowest vaccination rate in western Europe, and recorded another 15,809 cases on Friday.
It will go into a full lockdown for the third time on Monday until at least 12 December.
Tighter restrictions have also been announced in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Kluge said that factors such as the winter season – during which there is normally an increase in viral infections – and low vaccine coverage were responsible for the increase in cases. He urged more people to get vaccinated, for basic public health measures to be implemented and new treatments to fight the virus – although he said mandatory vaccination should be the “last resort”.
“Covid-19 has become once again the number one cause of mortality in our region,” he told the BBC, adding that “we know what needs to be done” in order to fight the disease.
Rioting erupted in the Netherlands on Friday in response to new Covid-19 restrictions. Police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured during a demonstration in Rotterdam.
The German health minister, Jens Spahn, said the situation in the country was a “national emergency” and would not rule out another national lockdown. Christmas markets were cancelled in the south-eastern state of Bavaria, which has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
The UK’s rolling seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases is still higher than EU countries, and has been since June. Other EU members, including Ireland, Hungary, Greece and the Baltic states have higher infection rates than the UK’s – but many with high vaccination rates and stricter social distancing rules do not.
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