Hans Kluge, leader of the WHO’s European office, spoke out after daily case totals topped those seen during the first wave in countries across the continent.
While rising cases is of ‘great concern’, he said it is not as concerning as the rise in March and April, because deaths from the disease have remained low.
Europe is reporting two to three times the number of daily cases it did during the first wave due to increased testing, WHO says, but deaths are only a fifth of their peak
The Czech Republic’s deaths (in purple) are also piling up more quickly than in the major economies of Western Europe, with 66 new fatalities announced today
The Czech Republic, in purple, has the highest infection rate in Europe – ahead of hard-hit countries such as the Netherlands (in red), France (in blue) and Spain (in orange) – and the rising numbers are putting pressure on hospitals in the Eastern European nation
This is because increased testing capacity means moderate and mild cases among younger people that were missed during the first wave are now showing in the data.
‘Daily numbers of cases are up, hospital admissions are up,’ Mr Kluge said.
‘Although we record two to three times more cases per day compared to the April peak, we still observe five times less deaths.’
The time taken for hospital admissions to double is also three to four times what it was in April, he added.
This means that health systems are less vulnerable to being swamped by a sudden surge of patients.
However, he warned that action is still needed to tackle the spread of the virus, or else deaths will begin to climb.
Relaxing all lockdown measures, he said, would lead to death rates four or five times higher than the first wave by January 2021.
‘Covid is now the fifth leading cause of deaths and the bar of a 1,000 deaths per day has now been reached,’ he added.
Hns Kluge, WHO’s Europe chief, said that while second wave is ‘concerning’ the continent is not in the same position it was during the first outbreak
Conversely, ‘simple measures’ such as widespread mask use coupled with strict control of social gatherings could save over 280,000 lives by February.
European leaders are rushing to bring in new measures to curb coronavirus cases on the continent, in the hopes of heading off more full-scale lockdowns.
On Wednesday night, Emmanuel Macron plunged nine cities including Paris into a full curfew which will see all hospitality businesses shut between 9pm and 6am.
France is now recording an average of more than 17,000 cases per day. But deaths are only around 80 per day, thirteen times lower than their April peak.
‘We have not lost control,’ Macron said in a national address. ‘We are in a situation which is worrying and which justifies that we are neither inactive nor in panic.’
The harshest measures have been brought in by leaders of the Czech Republic and Netherlands, which have emerged as Europe’s new hotbeds of infection.
Prime ministers of both countries announced a ‘partial shutdown’ of their economies, which has now come into force.
In the Netherlands, all bars restaurants and cafes must shut their doors by 10pm Wednesday and remain closed for four weeks.
Medical staff are seen taking nose swab tests in Rome, Italy. The country recorded 7,332 cases of the virus Wednesday, its highest total of the pandemic
In the Czech Republic, bars, clubs, restaurants and schools will close starting Wednesday until at least November 3.
Italy also issued new curbs on bars and restaurants this week, banning people from standing at the bar after 9pm along with barring groups of people from drinking on the streets.
All bars and restaurants must close by midnight, the rules state, while indoor parties are also banned and wedding ceremonies limited to 30 people.
Germany’s Angela Merkel also announced new limits on gatherings as well as tighter mask rules in infection hotspots on Wednesday.
Under the new measures, if an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will become mandatory in all places where people have close contact.
The number of people allowed to gather will also be limited to 25 in public and 15 in private spaces.
Mrs Merkel also announced that rules will be tightened in places with a rate of infection that is 50 per 100,000, where bars are already subject to curfew.
New rules include limiting private gatherings to 10 people or two households, and the closure of restaurants after 11pm.