The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday there could be a further 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 in Europe by March, taking the total to above 2.2 million, as the world body urged people to get vaccinated.
Total cumulative deaths from respiratory disease in the 53 countries of the WHO’s European region have already surpassed 1.5 million, it said, with the daily rate doubling from late September to 4,200 a day.
The WHO’s European region also includes Russia and other former Soviet republics as well as Turkey.
“Cumulative reported deaths are projected to reach over 2.2 million by spring next year, based on current trends,” it said, adding that COVID-19 is now the top regional cause of death.
High or extreme stress on intensive care units is expected in 49 out of 53 countries by March 1, the WHO added.
The Netherlands started transporting COVID-19 patients across the border to Germany on Tuesday as pressure rises on hospitals and infections jump to record levels. Austria began its fourth lockdown on Monday.
Beyond prevention measures such as masks and hand-washing, the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, urged people to get primary vaccines doses and a booster “if offered”.
WHO officials have previously advised against COVID-19 vaccine boosters until more people around the world have received primary doses.
“All of us have the opportunity and responsibility to help avert unnecessary tragedy and loss of life, and limit the further disruption to society and businesses over this winter season,” said Kluge.