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'A Very Serious Situation': WHO Says Coronavirus Cases Are Rising In Europe Again

World Health Organization official Dr. Hans Kluge tells reporters that coronavirus cases are rising in Europe.
David Barrett
World Health Organization official Dr. Hans Kluge tells reporters that coronavirus cases are rising in Europe.

The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that weekly coronavirus case numbers are rising in Europe at a higher rate than during the pandemic's peak in March.

At a virtual news conference, Dr. Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO in Europe, warned, "We do have a very serious situation unfolding before us."

"Weekly cases have exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March," he said. "Last week, the region's weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients."

Wearing a green face mask, Kluge said, "Strict lockdown measures in the spring and early summer yielded good results. Our efforts, our sacrifices paid off. In June, cases hit an all-time low."

Reported cases in Spain, France and the U.K. were in the hundreds in June and July.

However, Kluge said the early September case numbers "should serve as a wake-up call for all of us." He said the numbers reflect more comprehensive testing but also "alarming rates of transmission across the region."

"More than half of European countries have reported a greater than 10% increase in cases in the past two weeks," said Kluge. "Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than twofold in the same period."

"Where the pandemic goes from here is in our hands. ... We have fought it back before, and we can fight back again," he said.

Kluge said quarantines should remain in place.

So far, Europe has seen 4,893,614 confirmed cases, and the death toll is at 216,005 during this pandemic. Spain has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe at 625,651, followed by France at 454,099, the United Kingdom at 384,075 and Italy at 293,025, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard.

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Marisa Peñaloza is a senior producer on NPR's National Desk. Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as weekend shows. Her work has covered a wide array of topics — from breaking news to feature stories, as well as investigative reports.