M Mushfiqul Fazal, UN Correspondent
The World Health Organization’s Europe office estimates its 53-country area could record 700,000 additional deaths from the new coronavirus by next spring.
WHO Europe is based in Denmark. The office noted the growing evidence that people are less protected against infection and less serious disease through vaccines. It said an additional “booster dose” should be given as soon as possible to people with serious health problems, people over 60 and those who work in health care.
The WHO's international headquarters in Switzerland, however, has advised differently. It has repeatedly called for a delay on the use of boosters through the end of 2021. It has called for the delay so that more doses can be made available to developing countries. Developing and poor countries have faced a severe lack of the COVID-19 vaccines compared to rich countries.
WHO Europe called on people to get vaccinated, respect recommended washing methods and practice social distancing to help stop the spread of the virus.
Dr. Hans Kluge is regional director for WHO Europe. He said in a statement, “Today, the COVID-19 situation across Europe and Central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead, but we should not be without hope, because all of us…can take decisive action to stabilize the pandemic.”
The European region the office oversees stretches deep into central Asia. WHO Europe said deaths from COVID-19 in the region rose to nearly 4,200 per day in recent weeks. That is two times higher than daily deaths recorded at the end of September.
Total deaths have now reached 1.5 million in the region.
WHO Europe said there are three main reasons for the rise in deaths and cases in its region. One is the continued spread of the Delta variant, or version, of the virus. Another is an easing of restrictive measures like requirements for mask-wearing and physical distancing in places. The third reason is that a high number of Europeans remain unvaccinated.
The WHO Europe statement said, “We can expect that there will be high or extreme stress on hospital beds in 25 countries, and high or extreme stress in intensive care units (ICUs) in 49 out of 53 countries” between now and March 1, 2022.
It also said the area could reach a total of 2 million deaths from the pandemic by next March. -Voice of America