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'Europe is again on the epicenter' of COVID-19, WHO warns. 'sufficient idiocy,' Italian professional tells anti-vaxxers. - Yahoo news

The World Health Organization warned Thursday about rising COVID-19 cases and deaths in Europe. In the past week alone, the Europe region saw 1.8 million new COVID-19 cases and 24,000 deaths, or 59 percent of global cases and nearly half the world's coronavirus deaths. "If we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million COVID-19 deaths in Europe and Central Asia by the first of February next year," warned WHO Europe chief Dr. Hans Kluge.

"We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence," Kluge said. "Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic — where we were one year ago." Kluge and other public health officials attributed the looming fourth coronavirus wave to low vaccination rates in some areas, the Delta variant's contagiousness, and a relaxation of public mitigation efforts like masking. Kluge said if 95 percent of Europeans just wore masks in public, 188,000 lives could be saved in the next three months.

Eight of the 53 countries in the WHO's European region have vaccinated more than 70 percent of their population, but two have immunized less than 10 percent. The worst outbreaks are in Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere in low-vaccination Central and Eastern Europe. Germany, with 67 percent of its population fully vaccinated, recorded a pandemic-high 33,949 new COVID cases on Wednesday.

Spain, with about 80 percent of its population fully vaccinated, is one of the few European countries not seeing a rise in infections. But Italy saw a 16.6 percent increase in cases over the past week, despite 72 percent of its population fully immunized, a national health pass, and stringent new rules requiring workers to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19. One outbreak, in the northeastern city of Trieste, is directly tied to a large anti-vaccination protest there two weeks ago, The New York Times reports.

"The situation in Trieste is particularly worrisome," said Dr. Fabio Barbone, the epidemiologist working to contain the outbreak in Trieste's region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Regional president Massimiliano Fedriga had some more direct words for the anti-vaxxers flocking to Trieste: "It is the moment to say with clarity: Enough idiocy."

Cases have declined sharply in the U.S. over the past six weeks. But Dr. Mike Ryan, a WHO official in Europe, warned that Europe's experience is a "warning shot for the world." And Dr. Eric Topol, a medical researcher at California's Scripps Research Institute, agrees.

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