Europe needs 'serious acceleration' in fight against coronavirus - WHO


FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Orgnaization (WHO) ahead of a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland, January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Europe needs a "serious acceleration" in the fight against the coronavirus and a lack of contact-tracing capacity could drive the disease into the darkness, a top World Health Organization official said on Monday.

In Europe the picture is unrelentingly grim as a string of countries reported record increases, led by France, which posted more than 50,000 daily cases for the first time on Sunday, while the continent passed the threshold of 250,000 deaths.

The vast region, comprising 46 countries at WHO, accounted for 46% of global cases and nearly one third of deaths, said Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergencies expert.

"Right now we are well behind this virus in Europe, so getting ahead of it is going to take some serious acceleration in what we do," Ryan told a news conference.

Clinical capacity to manage COVID-19 hospitalised patients has increased in the European region and death rates are "very very low", Ryan said, paying tribute to health systems and medical workers.

"But we are seeing a large number of cases, we are seeing widespread disease, we are seeing very very high positivity rates and an increasing lack of capacity to do any effective form of contact-tracing which is further going to drive the disease into the darkness," he said.

"And many countries are now facing the spectre of shutdowns in the coming weeks. It is not a situation where I'm sure any country in Europe or in the world would want to be in," he added.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical head for COVID-19, asked about Europe's rising case numbers, said: "We are still hopeful that countries will not have to go into these so-called national lockdowns."

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