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Coronavirus: WHO warns of surge of new cases in Europe

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe director has urged caution following a surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths recorded in several European countries in recent weeks.

In an online press briefing on Thursday, WHO Regional Europe Director Hans Kluge said that, last week, the region had recorded a spike in both Covid-19 new deaths and cases “for the first time in months.”

Kluge, a Belgian national, said that as Europe as a whole reported a decreasing proportion of global cases compared to earlier this year, 30 countries had seen their cumulative cases spike over the past two weeks.

“The region continues to report close to 20,000 new cases and over 700 new deaths daily,” he said. The WHO-region “Europe” includes also non-EU countries.

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As several European countries moved forward with their lockdown exit strategies, Kluge urged caution and said many countries were already at risk of seeing the virus flare up again.

Live broadcast of WHO/Europe’s latest COVID-19 press briefing

🎥 Watch live as Dr Hans Kluge and technical experts provide a briefing on COVID-19 and answer questions from journalists.

Posted by WHO Regional Office for Europe on Thursday, June 25, 2020

“For weeks I have spoken about the risk of a resurgence as countries adjust measures — in several countries, that risk has now become a reality.”

Kluge said that 11 European countries were recording a “significant resurgence” of the deadly virus.

“If left unchecked, [this resurgence] will push health system to the brink once again in Europe,” Kluge warned.

The warning comes as Belgium’s federal health institute Sciensano reports a constant daily infection rate lingering around the 100 mark, according to the most recent figures.

Sciensano recently revamped its communication method, announcing it would no longer publish daily figures but instead communicate estimated daily averages based on the number of new infections over a given week.

A spokesperson for the WHO Europe’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kluge said that recent and “dangerous” local outbreaks in Germany, Poland and Spain had been dealt with through “rapid and targetted interventions,” and lauded national authorities for their prompt response.

On Sunday, Kluge also said that Europe had a new daily record number of new cases of the virus after about 18,000 new cases were confirmed within 24 hours, almost half of them in Russia, and the infection rate has stayed on that level since then.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times