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Europe is the only continent where Covid cases and deaths are rising, WHO warns

EUROPE is now the only continent where Covid cases and deaths are rising, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported yesterday.

Cases in the WHO European region (which includes Turkey and the countries of the former Soviet Union, including those in Asia) rose by 7 per cent and deaths rose 10 per cent. Globally, the number of cases increased by 1 per cent — two-thirds of all new cases were in Europe — while the number of deaths fell by 4 per cent. The five countries with the highest number of new cases were the United States, Russia, Britain, Turkey and Germany.

Germany hit another record yesterday, with 39,676 new daily cases, prompting Berlin’s Charite Hospital virology chief Christian Drosten to declare: “We have a real emergency situation right now.”

But German authorities said that the overwhelming majority of people hospitalised are unvaccinated and that getting more people vaccinated, rather than imposing new lockdowns, is the way through the crisis. Germany currently has a caretaker national government following a September federal election. The parties expected to form the next government plan to introduce legislation that would allow a declaration since March 2020 of an “epidemic situation of national scope” to expire at the end of the month and provide a new legal framework for coronavirus measures.

Daily infections in the neighbouring Czech Republic also rival the highs of earlier waves, with the infection rate rising to 558 per 100,000, more than twice that of Germany.

How to handle the new wave is disputed. Vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has called on the US Food and Drug Administration to authorise booster shots for all adults, and many European governments are rolling out booster programmes. But the WHO has asked wealthy countries to delay booster schemes until the new year to make more shots available in countries of the global South, where vaccination rates are far lower.

China continues to champion its zero-Covid strategy, maintaining strict controls on entry and exit and rolling out mass testing, local lockdowns and centralised quarantines whenever outbreaks occur. It says it has now vaccinated 77 per cent of the population.

Former Chinese Medical Association chairman Zhong Nanshan said that the cost of its strict measures “is truly rather high, but compared with relaxing them – that cost would be even higher.”


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