Coronavirus resurges in Europe as lockdowns ease, warns WHO

Rise in virus cases in some countries risks pushing ‘health systems to brink once again’

A major incident has been declared in the English coastal town of Bournemouth after thousands of people gathered on the beach amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Video: Reuters

Coronavirus cases are resurging in Europe as countries ease restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the disease, the World Health Organization has warned.

"For weeks I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures. In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality," WHO director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge said in his weekly briefing to media.

Across the WHO’s European region, which covers 54 countries, roughly 20,000 new coronavirus cases and 700 deaths are currently being reported daily.

“Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months,” Dr Kluge said.


“Thirty countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe.”

Globally the pandemic “continues to accelerate”, he warned, with a new record of 183,020 cases reported over 24 hours this weekend.

Countries where newly-detected cases increased most significantly in the last fortnight compared to the previous two weeks included Luxembourg, where cases surged 90 per cent; Greece, which had a 47 per cent rise; and Germany, where cases were up 17 per cent, according to the WHO's coronavirus dashboard.

Cases rose 212 per cent in the same period in Slovenia, 29 per cent in Switzerland, and 50 per cent in Malta.

Other countries in which detected infections rose were Armenia, Sweden, Croatia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, Iceland, and Slovakia.

Dr Kluge noted that some countries including Poland, Germany, and Spain had responded quickly to dangerous outbreaks in schools, coal mines and food production settings, and managed to bring them under control.

He urged countries to continue advocating physical distancing and the wearing of masks, and to improve detection systems so that new cases of the virus can be found and isolated where they occur.

“We need to get smarter in using the evidence and the information we have from our Covid-19 surveillance systems to improve the only way we have to minimise transmission: find, isolate, test and care for every case,” Dr Kluge said. “Trace and quarantine every contact.”

The use of digital tools can help in the fight to combat the virus, Dr Kluge said, noting that Italy was trialing an app that could measure oxygen and heart rate and that France was using artificial intelligence to respond to public queries.

But he warned that technology needed to be used wisely, taking into account privacy, security, and ensuring that social groups with less access to the internet were not excluded.

Since May countries across Europe have begun easing restrictions that were put in place to stop the virus from spreading out of control and overwhelming healthcare systems.

This month, restrictions on non-essential travel between EU countries have begun to ease, though many states maintain restrictions on travellers from countries with high numbers of cases and requirements to quarantine.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times