The number of new coronavirus cases has resurged in Europe after six weeks of falling figures, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.
“Last week, new cases of COVID-19 in Europe rose nine percent to just above one million. This brought a promising six-week decline in new cases to an end, with more than half of our region seeing increasing numbers of new infections,” WHO Europe’s regional director Hans Kluge told a news conference.
“We are seeing a resurgence in central and Eastern Europe. New cases are also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high,” he said.
“We need to get back to the basics. We need to enlarge the vaccine portfolio”, he said.
WHO’s Europe region comprises 53 nations and vaccination drives have begun in 45.
According to an AFP tally based on official numbers, 2.6 percent of the European Union’s population have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines and 5.4 percent have got one dose.
European officials are under pressure to step up vaccination drives that have lagged behind those of other countries, including Israel and Britain, which approved coronavirus vaccines several weeks before the EMA.
France has criticised a push by Austria and Denmark to coordinate with Israel on developing new Covid-19 jabs, as EU unity
frays even further over its troubled vaccine rollout.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the Israeli partnership on Monday, saying the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was “too slow in approving vaccines” leaving the bloc vulnerable to supply bottlenecks at pharmaceutical companies.
Austria’s neighbours Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have already bypassed the EMA to approve Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian acknowledged on Wednesday “significant” shortcomings in the EU’s vaccination policies, but criticised what he called “attempts at secession”.
European nations should instead pool their resources to increase vaccine production capacity in Europe, “something we are in the process of doing”, the ministry said in its statement.
“The approval process for the European market has also been reviewed, with the introduction of ’emergency procedures’ for vaccines targeting new variants,” it added.