The European offices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that Coronavirus (COVID-19) case counts has tripled across Europe in the last six weeks.
This the organisation said, hinting at a “huge challenge” for the continent’s health care system for the rest of the year.
“My message to governments and health authorities is to act now to prepare for the coming months,“ said Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.
“Right now, the southern hemisphere, where it is winter, is experiencing a very active influenza season, which, along with COVID-19, is putting a continued strain on health systems.
“We are likely to see a similar scenario in the northern hemisphere come autumn and leading into winter.
“If health authorities act now, they can help reduce the anticipated disruptions to society, including health worker absences and overburdened health systems, struggling businesses and travel chaos.”
Kluge noted three million new cases reported last week, though he added that intensive care admissions remain relatively low.
But he said he is worried that, as people return from summer vacations, schools reopen and people start socialising indoors due to colder temperatures, case counts could spike higher.
He noted that the situation is being exacerbated by the prevalence of new strains of the Omicron variant, which is making reinfection more likely.
“Each new infection could lead to long COVID,’’ he said.
To prepare, he said countries need to revive vaccination drives; support mask-wearing; strengthen laboratory capacities; prioritise contact-tracing; and bolster infection control practices in all health care facilities.
“Just because a mask isn’t mandated, doesn’t mean it’s prohibited,’’ he noted.