COVID-19 Situation across Europe is Very Serious

COVID-19 situation across Europe and central Asia is very serious. According to WHO, Europe could face over 2 million COVID-19 deaths by March 2022. Wearing masks, physical distancing and vaccination are key preventive actions that could help avoid reaching this grim milestone.   

The pandemic situation in the Europe took a worse turn last week when number of COVID-19 related deaths rose to about 4200 deaths per day which is almost double of number reported at the end of September. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in 53 countries of WHO Europe region has now crossed 1.5 million.  

According to estimates based on modelling of current trends by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), total COVID-19 deaths in the region may cross 2.2 million marks by March 2022. Several countries in the region will see high stress on hospital beds.   

The current rate of transmission of COVID-19 in the region is high. This is because large number of people in the region (especially in central and eastern European countries) are still not vaccinated. The situation is compounded by the fact that the dominant variant found in the region is delta, which is highly transmissible. In addition, the people have gone easy on wearing of facemasks and physical distancing. The cold winter weather means people are mostly confined indoors. The interplay of these factors has raised the transmission rate considerably, hence the pandemic situation in the region has taken the current shape. Reducing transmission is the key. 

Increasing vaccine uptake is very important because it is effective in preventing severe disease, reducing hospitalisation needs, lessening strain on the health systems and reducing deaths. The current vaccines are also effective against new variants. Over one billion doses have been administered in the region so far and about 53% people have completed two doses. However, there are wide differences in vaccination rates between countries in the region which need to be corrected. There is also need of booster doses, especially for the most vulnerable people because current evidences indicate that vaccine-induced protection declines with time.  

There is a need for renewed emphasis on personal protective measures. Regular hand cleaning; maintaining physical distance from others; mask wearing; coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or tissue; avoiding closed, confined and crowded spaces; and ensuring good ventilation indoors have proven to be effective in prevention when used together. Of these, face mask wearing is the single most effective protective measure. Evidences suggest that this alone can reduce incidence of the disease by about 53%. According to an estimate, universal mask coverage of 95% can prevent over 160,000 deaths by 01 March 2022.   

For optimal protection, these personal protective measures should be integrated with public health interventions such as self-isolation and testing, contact tracing and quarantine. 

Lockdowns and school closures would be the last resort to contain high transmission rate, if increase in vaccine uptake does not happen to the required level and compliance to personal protective measures, especially if face mask wearing remain unsatisfactory.   

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Source:   

WHO Europe Media Centre – Press releases – The WHO European Region could hit over 2 million COVID-19 deaths by March 2022. We can avoid reaching this grim milestone by taking action now. 23-11-2021. Available online at here  

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