Europe is currently experiencing an "explosion" in the number of Covid-19 cases and must not slacken its efforts against the pandemic, said the director of the European branch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday.
"We are observing an explosion" of infections with "a million new cases in only a few days" in Europe and "we are also seeing mortality gradually increasing," director Hans Kluge stressed in an interview.
"We cannot relax" and "it's going to be a bit difficult, we have to be honest about it," he warned.
The WHO's European zone, which includes 53 countries including Russia, has recorded more than 11.8 million cases and nearly 295,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the organisation's monitoring chart.
In the last seven days, nearly 1.8 million new cases have been recorded, as well as 19,500 deaths.
According to WHO estimates, "with the widespread use of masks and strict control of gatherings, we can save more than 261,000 lives by February in Europe."
"The status quo is not an option," he said, adding that the organisation calls on states to take "targeted and proportionate" measures to counter the rise in cases and deaths, according to Kluge.
However, schools must remain open "until the end" and be closed only as a last resort, he said.
"There is no reason to say that schools are one of the main vectors of transmission," Kluge said. "We must keep schools open all the way because we cannot afford a lost generation due to Covid-19."