Europe and Central Asia could witness another seven hundred thousand deaths by next spring due to coronavirus and eventually eclipse 2.2 million total fatalities if the current surge isn’t quickly contained, warned the World Health Organization’s office for the region.
Currently, according to the WHO’s statement, the region is experiencing nearly four thousand two hundred deaths per day—which is double the number seen during the end of September.
“In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach,” Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, noted in a statement.
“This means getting the standard doses of vaccine, taking a booster if offered, as well as incorporating preventive measures into our normal routines,” he continued.
Lagging Vaccination Rates
The health organization also claimed that Europe is falling behind in its ambitious vaccination drive, raising further worries of a higher death toll this coming winter.
“We’ve only got 54 percent of the one billion people living in Europe fully vaccinated,” Robb Butler, executive director for WHO Europe, told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Wednesday.
“There are (around) 45 percent who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, that’s a bigger issue for our policy and decision-makers right now—driving up vaccination rates,” he added.
Taking Necessary Precautions
Kluge added that the region should be bracing for a highly “challenging winter,” calling on the general public to adhere to precautions that include the use of face masks and coverings, physical distancing, and testing and contact tracing.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has repeatedly stated that Europe is at the epicenter of the latest global wave of coronavirus infections, shared similar sentiments during a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.
“Even if you’re vaccinated, continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected yourself, and to infecting someone else who could die,” he said.
“That means wearing a mask, maintaining distance, avoiding crowds and meeting others outside if you can, or in a well-ventilated space inside,” he continued.
Tougher Restrictions Ahead?
Meanwhile, Germany is expected to decide on even tougher restrictions and may even opt for a full lockdown as daily cases continue to surge in the country.
Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor-designate, said Wednesday that “vaccination is the way out of this pandemic” and that the country “should make vaccination compulsory for certain groups.” He, however, did not identify which groups are being considered.
Austria has already announced it will make coronavirus vaccines mandatory from February next year and several other countries, such as Italy and France, have made vaccines a requirement for frontline health workers.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.