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Half a million could die in Europe of COVID by March, WHO warns

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The World Health Organization’s Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge

Some half a million more people could die in Europe from COVID-19 by March in the absence of urgent action, the World Health Organization warns.

The WHO’s Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge sounded the warning on Saturday, saying he was very worried about a fresh wave of infections that had spread across the continent and led countries to announce new restrictions.

He called for more public health measures to be implemented amid the situation.

“COVID-19 has become once again the number one cause of mortality in our region,” he said. 

Explaining the rise in infections, Kluge considered such factors as the winter season and low vaccination rates to be responsible. 

“We know what needs to be done” to fight the disease, he, however, added.

Kluge called for wider vaccination coverage, basic public health measures to be implemented, and new treatments to be developed.

The official still considered mandatory vaccination to be a last-ditch solution.

No earlier than on Thursday, Kluge had cautioned that transmission rates in 53 European countries were of "grave concern" and new cases were nearing record levels, exacerbated by the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus.

The region saw a six percent increase in new cases last week of nearly 1.8 million new cases, compared to the week before. The number of deaths rose 12 percent in the same period. 

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