According to the latest WHO report released on Tuesday, the European region accounted for 44% of global new cases and 49% of new deaths last week.
While the number of new cases in the region is declining on a weekly basis, the number of deaths continues to rise, with 32,684 new deaths reported in the previous seven days.
This update comes as the countries of the continent struggle with how to allow people to celebrate the upcoming holidays, including Christmas, and alleviate the economic hardship for businesses in tackling the pandemic.
Both France and the United Kingdom on Tuesday set plans for the coming weeks based on declining infection following the blockade measures.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called on EU leaders not to loosen coronavirus restrictions too quickly.
“I know shop owners, bartenders and waiters in restaurants want to end restrictions, but we need to learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes,” he told the European Parliament in Brussels. “Too fast and excessive relaxation poses a risk to the third wave after Christmas.”
Von der Leyen said he warned weeks ago that this Christmas would be different and quieter than usual, and called for solidarity among the nations of Europe.
But he added: “There is also good news, the European Commission has now signed vaccination contracts with six pharmaceutical companies, the first European citizens may have been vaccinated before the end of December, and the tunnel has finally come to light.”
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it has signed a contract with the modern pharmaceutical company Covid-19 for up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.
The WHO reports that the global acceleration in the incidence of cases has slowed over the past week, with some 4 million new cases registered. However, mortality rates have continued to rise, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported worldwide.
The number of new cases reported in Europe last week fell by 6% to 1.77 million after a 10% drop last week, the report said, “as a sign that the resumption of more stringent public health and social measures in recent weeks has slowed starts the transmission. ”
But despite this declining trend, “the European Region continues to be the largest contributor to new cases and new deaths over the past 7 days,” the report said.
Italy reported the most new cases in Europe and the third highest worldwide, at 235,979, but according to the WHO, the cases could peak if we show the 3% decline reported there. Last week, the number of new deaths in the country rose by 26% to 4,578.
The UK is planning a “Christmas bubble”
Despite some positive signs, parts of Europe continue to struggle with a relentless second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Germany has registered 410 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours – the highest number of deaths since the outbreak, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s disease and control agency, said on Wednesday.
It was the first time that Germany had recorded more than 400 Covid-19 deaths in a single day. According to the RKI, a total of 18,633 new infections have been registered in the past 24 hours.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with state governors on Wednesday to decide on new measures to try to keep the wave under control. Measures to be discussed include extending the current, more lenient restrictions until the end of December, further masking assignments for schools and further limiting the number of contacts available to people.
Meanwhile, Poland reported 674 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, the nation’s new daily record. The total number of deaths related to Covid-19 reached 14,888, the health ministry wrote on Twitter. In the past day, 15,362 new cases were also reported, bringing the total to 942,442.
The latest WHO data has brought some relief to the UK, which has suffered the most Covid-related deaths in Europe, with a total of 55,935, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
In the UK, a 13% decrease in new cases was recorded compared to last week, with 149,027 reported, while the number of new deaths remained similar, according to the WHO. This decrease in new cases was the first weekly decrease since the end of August, the report said.
A one-month partial shutdown in England ends on December 2, replaced by three-step restrictions based on local infection rates. The decentralized governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced their own measures.
The UK government said on Tuesday that up to three households will be able to form and mix “Christmas bubbles” indoors, outdoors and at places of worship between 23 and 28 December across the UK. There will be no restrictions on travel across the country, even if some areas are subject to stricter measures than others, the government said.
“It can’t be a ‘normal’ Christmas. But as we approach the holiday season, we work closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if for a short time, and recognizing it must be limited and careful.” in a government press release.
Macron: We avoided the worst
Across the channel, in France, President Emmanuel Macron said the country will begin lifting restrictions on blocking Covid-19 over the weekend due to a slowdown in the spread of viruses.
In his speech to the nation, Macron said the latest figures show that more than 50,000 people died in Covid-19 in France, but the number of patients in the intensive care unit was declining. “It seems that the peak of the second wave of the epidemic is over, we dreaded even worse numbers and avoided them,” he said.
Shops, boutiques and hairdressers may be open from Saturday to 9pm, but people will still need to have a certified diploma to leave the house. Internal travel restrictions will also be eased, and places of worship may reopen and gather up to 30 people at a time.
The closure could be further resolved on December 15 if the number of daily cases falls below 5,000 and there are only 2,000-3,000 patients in the hospital intensive care unit. “That’s why we can travel again without permission, including between regions, and spend Christmas with our family,” Macron said.
In this case, French cinemas, theaters and museums may remain open, but bars, clubs and restaurants will still be closed. There will be a curfew between 9pm and 7am, except for Christmas and New Year.
Macron said no decision has yet been made to open ski and winter sports resorts, but warned that “it is impossible to imagine opening holidays.” The third phase of relief may begin on January 20, allowing restaurants to open if the number of daily cases remains below 5,000.
According to the president, vaccination of the most vulnerable is expected to start in late December or early January.
Belgian businesses are urging reopening
As Belgian neighbors begin to open their stores, the Belgian trade and services association, Comeos, warned that the country would “become an island not of closed shops but of bankrupt shops while spending Belgian money abroad”.
“If everything stays closed with us, everyone will also cross the border because of their Christmas shopping,” said Dominique Michel, CEO of Comeos.
According to Comeos, which represents 18 business sectors in Belgium and employs more than 400,000 people, half of Belgians live within a 50-kilometer radius (31 miles) of an international border.
Earlier this week, the Belgian National Crisis Center called on Belgians not to travel abroad at Christmas and New Year, and warning roads to neighboring countries are “destroying our efforts” to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
A Belgian advisory committee of heads of the three regional governments and the federal government will meet on Friday to assess current measures and discuss how the country will celebrate Christmas.
Belgium’s strict closure measures were introduced on 2 November and will last until 13 December.
Announcing the closure, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said a decision would be made on the possible reopening of shops and services by 1 December.
CNN’s Antonia Mortensen, Lindsay Isaac and Pierre Bairin contributed to the report.