Europe now has 64 million confirmed cases and 1.3 million COVID-19 deaths, with 33 countries reporting a greater than 10% rise in 14-day case incidence that is "deeply worrying," the World Health Organization's regional director said Monday, according to Anadolu Agency.
At a WHO news conference, WHO Europe region head Hans Kluge said countries must stay steadfast in maintaining multiple layers of protection.
The layers include vaccination and wearing masks, he said, while making a plea with the UNICEF, the UN children's agency, for schools to remain open in Europe and Asia.
"Vaccines are the path towards reopening societies and stabilizing economies.
"Despite this, we remain challenged by insufficient production, insufficient access, and insufficient vaccine acceptance," said Kluge, explaining there could be 200,000 deaths in the European region by December.
He asserted: "Vaccination is a right, but it's also a responsibility. The stagnation in vaccine uptake in our region is of serious concern." Kluge said factors accounting for increased cases include the more transmissible Delta variant, now reported in 50 countries in the WHO's Europe Region that extends from Greenland in the northwest to the Russian Far East. There was also the easing of public health measures and the seasonal surge in travel, driving significant growth.
"We are seeing a particularly steep increase in cases in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Central Asian Republics," said Kluge.
Nearly 850 million vaccination doses had been administered in around eight months, with almost half of the European Region's people fully vaccinated.
Kluge rued that in the past six weeks, vaccination uptake in the region has slowed down, "influenced by a lack of access to vaccines in some countries and a lack of vaccine acceptance in others."
"Even though nearly 3 in 4 health workers in our region have completed a full COVID-19 vaccine series; there are countries that have only managed to vaccinate 1 in 10 health professionals. "
"Everyone, everywhere should have the right to receive the full course, he said.
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