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WHO says Europe, Central Asia again at 'epicenter' of COVID-19 crisis

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An information sign with letters "Access according to 2G rule, vaccinated recovered" is placed on a window at a cafe in the old town of Heidelberg, Germany, on Thursday. Due to an increasing number of cases of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, new nationwide restrictions have been announced to counter a surge in infections. Photo by Ronald Wittek/EPA-EFE
An information sign with letters "Access according to 2G rule, vaccinated recovered" is placed on a window at a cafe in the old town of Heidelberg, Germany, on Thursday. Due to an increasing number of cases of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, new nationwide restrictions have been announced to counter a surge in infections. Photo by Ronald Wittek/EPA-EFE

Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization said Thursday that Europe and Central Asia, where COVID-19 has been increasing over the past month, weeks have again become epicenters of the pandemic.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Henri Kluge said that the two regions accounted for nearly 60% of all cases globally and almost 50% of all deaths over the past week.

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"Today, every single country in Europe and Central Asia is facing a real threat of COVID-19 resurgence, or already fighting it," Kluge said at a briefing in Denmark Thursday.

"Cases are once again approaching record levels, with the more transmissible Delta variant continuing to dominate transmission across Europe and Central Asia."

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Nearly 2 million new cases and 24,000 additional deaths were reported in the regions in the past week.

Europe now has 78 million total cases, which is more than in Southeast Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, western Pacific and Africa combined.

Kluge said older people account for three-quarters of their coronavirus deaths, and noted that hospitalizations more than doubled in just one week. He added that another half-million patients in Europe and Central Asia could die by February if nothing changes, and that insufficient vaccination and lifting pandemic restrictions are chief contributing factors.

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"It is imperative that authorities invest all efforts to accelerate the pace of vaccination roll-out," Kluge said.

Catherine Smallwood, WHO Europe senior emergency officer, told The Guardian that some countries that loosened restrictions have seen pronounced case surges.

Projections show, WHO officials said, that if the Europe and Central Asia regions achieved 95% universal mask use, nearly 200,000 lives could be saved over the next three months.

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