Coronavirus cases rise dramatically in Europe, WHO calls it a ‘wake-up call’

There are growing concerns in Europe at what is being seen as an alarming rise in coronavirus cases. The number of new daily infections has reached record highs in some countries. Targeted lockdowns and restrictions are returning across the continent. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

A dramatic rise in new coronavirus cases in Europe has been characterized as a “wake up call” by the World Health Organisation’s top official in Europe.

“We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said Thursday in a press briefing on the epidemiological situation in the region. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.”

He said that, last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.

“More than half of European countries have reported a greater-than-10% increase in cases in the past two weeks. Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period,” he added.

While lockdown measures imposed in the spring and early summer pushed the number of new cases in June to an all-time low, the number of cases in September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us,” he warned.

There have been growing concerns in Europe for a number of weeks at what is being seen as an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, with the number of new daily infections reaching record highs in some countries.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned Wednesday that the 14-day case notification rate (the number of newly reported cases) for the EU, European Economic Area and the U.K. “has been increasing for more than 50 days, with over half of all EU countries currently experiencing an increase in cases.”

Spain, which has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe at 614,360, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University (JHU), is reportedly set to announce targeted lockdowns in places where the virus is spreading rapidly, and renewed restrictions of movement on Friday.

Meanwhile in France, the number of new daily cases reported Wednesday (9,784) was among the highest ever reported in the country. It was just below an all-time record of 10,561 new cases recorded on Saturday. The number of people being treated in intensive care units for Covid-19 also rose for the 20th straight day Wednesday, Reuters reported, to a three-month high of 803. The total number of cases in France stands at 404,888, according to the French Health Ministry.

Remarking on the rise in cases, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that the virus was circulating “quicker and quicker in certain parts of the country,” Reuters reported.

The U.K., which has the third-highest number of cases in Europe, at 380,677 according to JHU data, has seen an alarming rise in cases across various parts of northern England in recent weeks. It has started to reintroduce measures to restrict social gatherings, with the number of people allowed to meet now limited to six in England. Stricter measures targeting north-east England could be announced Thursday, the BBC reported.

Italy, which was the epicenter of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreak in February but now has the fourth-highest number of reported infections, at 291,442 to date, has also seen cases rise. The health ministry said Wednesday that Italy has registered 1,452 new cases in the last 24 hours, up from 1,229 new cases on Tuesday, although this was partly attributed to a sharp increase in coronavirus tests, news agency ANSA reported. Nonetheless, the health ministry noted that Italy is seeing the highest number of active cases since June, with 40,532 people currently infected with the coronavirus.

Germany, which was seen as a poster-child for its handling of the first wave of the coronavirus cases, having managed to keep its death toll low compared to its number of cases, has seen a slight rise in cases.

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