KEY POINTS

  • Over half of all member nations in the European Union have experienced significant surges in coronavirus cases recently
  • Reports indicate recent surges were concentrated among younger people, which has health experts concerned about further spreading the pandemic
  • The ECDC said the renewed strain on countries' healthcare systems could worsen heading into winter if surges continue

The World Health Organization warned European governments Thursday that the recent surge of coronavirus cases are a dangerous “wake-up call” for the continent as the weekly cases passed the number recorded during the first surge of the pandemic.

“We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” WHO European Director Dr. Hans Kluge said during a press conference. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.”

“Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 cases. More than half of European countries have reported a greater-than-10% increase in cases in the past two weeks. Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period.”

As of Thursday, Europe has over 4.5 million confirmed cases and over 220,000 reported deaths from coronavirus. Russia accounts for the highest number of confirmed cases with over 1.09 million among European nations and Spain has the highest number of cases in continental Europe with over 614,000 confirmed cases. The United Kingdom has the highest number of reported deaths with 41,684 since the pandemic hit.

Reports indicate the surge is concentrated among younger people who were among the first to go back out after lockdowns lifted. Health experts previously warned this could be dangerous as many who test positive show no or mild symptoms of the virus, unknowingly giving the virus an easy means to spread.

White House infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci previously warned about this possibility as several U.S. states were trying to reopen.

“By allowing yourself to get infected or not caring if you do get infected, you are propagating a pandemic,” Fauci told WebMD in July. “It doesn’t end with you. The chances are you’re going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else, and then someone who’s vulnerable will get infected.”

The WHO’s warning was echoed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which is monitoring the rise in cases across the European Union and U.K. It said cases across the continent increased for nearly two months and the over half of the EU member nations are battling surges.

“As schools reopen and more indoor activities are held, the increase of cases comes as a reminder that the pandemic is not over,” the ECDC said in a press release.

This is putting a renewed strain on these countries’ healthcare systems, which the ECDC said will likely get worse as winter sets in. It advised having “appropriate surge capacity plans in case of a high demand for the care of patients with respiratory distress.”

The ideal goal for the World Health Organization is that every country receives vaccinations for 20 percent of its population, starting with the most vulnerable people The ideal goal for the World Health Organization is that every country receives vaccinations for 20 percent of its population, starting with the most vulnerable people Photo: AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI