(CN) — With much of Europe under lockdown, the number of new coronavirus infections is decreasing around the world though Mexico and Brazil are seeing a dangerous rise in cases and deaths, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday.
“Last week saw the first decline in newly reported cases globally since September due to a decrease in cases in Europe,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, during a news briefing.
He attributed the decline in cases in Europe to the imposition of “difficult but necessary measures” to stop the virus’ spread. Across the continent, many bars, restaurants, gyms and cinemas are closed, travel is restricted and large gatherings are banned.
After enjoying a largely carefree summer, Europe was hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths with the start of autumn, forcing nations to reimpose economically crippling lockdowns.
Although the pandemic has slowed in Europe, European nations continue to report alarmingly high numbers of cases and deaths. Italy, Russia, Poland, the United Kingdom, France and Germany are each reporting hundreds of new deaths each day.
On Friday, Italy reported the most new daily deaths in Europe with 672 fatalities, bringing its total death toll to 55,576, the second highest in Europe after the U.K.’s 58,448. After weeks of restrictions, the U.K. is seeing a fall in deaths, reporting 208 new deaths on Friday.
In its latest weekly report on Covid-19, the WHO found that Europe accounted for about half of recent deaths worldwide. Each day, more than 10,000 deaths are linked to Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
With the trend going in the right direction in Europe, national governments are talking about partially lifting restrictions for the Christmas holiday season. But the worry is that lifting lockdowns will allow the virus to flourish in Europe and other regions of the world eager to celebrate the festive season.
“This is no time for complacency, especially with the holiday season approaching in many cultures and countries,” Tedros said. He said the gains nations have achieved in containing the virus “can easily be lost.”
“We all want to be together with the people we love during festive periods, but being with family and friends is not worth putting them or yourself at risk,” he said. “We all need to consider whose life we might be gambling with in the decisions we make.”
He urged people to celebrate differently this year by trying to avoid as much as possible mixing households, traveling and shopping in crowded stores.
He said that if travel is essential, people should take precautions, especially if they are using public transportation, by wearing masks, carrying hand sanitizer and washing their hands frequently.
“If you feel unwell, don’t travel,” he said.
“I think Brazil has to be very, very serious,” he said.
At the start of November, Brazil reported about 114,000 new cases in a week and that number has doubled recently, he said. At its peak, Brazil reported 319,000 new infections in a single week in the middle of July.
Similarly, the weekly number of deaths has risen too from 2,538 at the start of November to 3,876 recently, Tedros said. Brazil has reported 172,866 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the second highest toll in the world after the United States, which has recorded more than 273,460 deaths.
Tedros said Mexico is seeing a similar surge to Brazil’s. He said the number of deaths has increased to about 4,000 a week, double what Mexico reported in the middle of October. With about 60,000 new infections a week, the number of new cases is also double the number reported in the middle of October.
“I think this shows that Mexico is in bad shape,” he said. “We would like to ask Mexico to be very serious.”
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.