The current pace of Covid-19 transmission in Europe is of “grave concern”, and the region could register half a million more deaths due to the disease by February 2022 if the current trend continues, a senior World Health Organization official said on Thursday.

Hans Kluge, the global health’s director for the European Region, told mediapersons that last week, the region had accounted for 59% of all cases globally and 48% of reported Covid-19 deaths.

Overall, the European Region has more reported cases (78 million) than the regions of South-East Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Pacific and Africa combined, he added.

“We are, once again, at the epicentre,” Kluge said.

The European Region is one of the six regions of the World Health Organizations.

Several countries on the continent have reported a resurgence of the coronavirus. On Thursday, Germany reported 33,949 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day rise since the pandemic began in the country in early 2020, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday, France registered 10,050 new coronavirus cases. This was the first time since September 14 that the country reported more than 10,000 infections, according to Reuters.

Kluge said that according to the World Health Organization’s data, hospitalisation rates due to the coronavirus had more than doubled in a week.

“According to one reliable projection, if we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million Covid-19 deaths in the Region by the first of February next year and 43 countries in our Region will face high to extreme stress on hospital beds at some point through the same period,” he said.

The official said that Covid-19 cases have been rising in the region because of inadequate vaccination coverage and the relaxation of public health and social measures. He added that vaccination uptake has been low in the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and added that hospital admissions rates are high there.

“This variation in vaccination coverage reflects several issues around immunization service delivery as well as a lack of trust and/or complacency by some population groups,” Kluge said. “It’s imperative that authorities invest all efforts to accelerate the pace of vaccination roll-out.”