WHO fears 236,000 more COVID-19 deaths in Europe by end of year

COPENHAGEN: The World Health Organization warned Monday that another 236,000 people could die from COVID-19 in Europe by December 1, sounding the alarm over rising infections and stagnating vaccine rate on the continent.

Countries across the region have seen infection rates tick up as the highly-transmissible Delta variant takes hold, particularly among the unvaccinated.

Poorer nations, especially in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, have been hardest hit, and deaths are mounting as well.

“Last week, there was an 11 percent increase in the number of deaths in the region — one reliable projection is expecting 236,000 deaths in Europe, by December 1,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said Monday.

Europe has registered around 1.3 million COVID-19 deaths to date.

Of the WHO Europe’s 53 member states, 33 have registered an incidence rate greater than 10 percent in the past two weeks, Kluge said. Most are in poorer countries.

High transmission rates across the continent were “deeply worrying, particularly in the light of low vaccination uptake in priority populations in a number of countries.”

Kluge said the Delta variant was partly to blame, along with an “exaggerated easing” of restrictions and measures and a surge in summer travel.

While around half of people in the WHO’s Europe region are fully vaccinated, uptake in the region has slowed.

“In the past six weeks, it has fallen by 14 percent, influenced by a lack of access to vaccines in some countries and a lack of vaccine acceptance in others.” – AFP