Over 2 million people could die of Covid-19 in Europe this winter, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned in its latest forecast, adding that most of the countries’ health systems could be overwhelmed.
Around half of the 53 nations comprising the WHO’s European Region could face a period of “high or extreme stress” when it comes to hospital beds this winter, the UN health watchdog said on Tuesday. The agency added that in all but four of them, intensive care units would likely go through a time of “high or extreme stress” as well.
Given that the number of reported Covid-19 deaths in the region has doubled since late September and came close to 4,200 people a day last week, the WHO believes the cumulative reported death toll could surpass 2.2 million by next spring if the current trends remain unchanged.
The international body blamed the situation on the prevalence of the highly transmissible Delta strain, which remains dominant in the region. Other reasons included high numbers of unvaccinated people, reduced vaccine-induced protection levels against the disease, and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions by governments ahead of winter.
“In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach. This means getting the standard doses of vaccine, taking a booster if offered, as well as incorporating preventive measures into our normal routines,” said Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe.
He also encouraged people to keep sticking to personal protection measures like wearing masks and avoiding crowded and confined spaces.
The WHO said that “countries should also consider giving a booster dose to those aged over 60 and health-care workers, as a precautionary measure.”
“Today, the Covid-19 situation across Europe and central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead,” Kluge said, calling on national health authorities and individuals alike to “take decisive action to stabilize the pandemic.”
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