The World Health Organization confirmed more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths and 48 million cases in its European region, the health body’s regional director Hans Kluge said Thursday, calling the situation “serious.”

“The situation in our region is serious; 1.6 million new cases are reported every week. That’s 9,500 every hour, 160 people every minute,” Kluge told a press conference on coronavirus’ impact on the 53 countries in the WHO Europe region, extending from Greenland in the northwest to the Russian Far East.

Worldwide, the number of deaths is nearing 3 million, with 137 million confirmed cases, said the WHO official.

In April, COVID-19 admissions to hospitals and intensive care in France reached the highest levels since this time last year.

Some slowing of transmission

“There are early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries,” said Kluge.

“Let me be clear, early signs of decline are not equal to low rates of transmission. Transmission must be driven down to low rates and kept low by harnessing our energy and resilience to beat the virus.”

Among the “silver linings” of COVID-19, Kluge said the disease has highlighted the urgent need to ensure equitable access to health care.

“It is only among the oldest that we are seeing declining incidence,” said Kluge.

“Over the past two months, the trend among people more than 80 years of age has diverged from the trend seen in every other age group, possibly due to high vaccination uptake in this high-risk group.”

Since February, the proportion of COVID-19 deaths in Europe, among those older than 80, has gradually fallen to close to 30%.

That is the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, said the WHO official.

Blood clotting disorders

He said that globally there had been a tiny number of cases of rare blood clotting disorders among the 200 million people that have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The WHO is taking very seriously advisory groups on immunization that continue reviewing the evidence, he said.

“For now, the risk of suffering blood clots is much higher for someone with COVID-19 than for someone who has taken the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he explained.

“Let there be no doubt about it; the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in reducing COVID-19 hospitalization and preventing deaths. WHO recommends it to all eligible adults to gain protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as quickly as possible.”

He said the WHO is also aware of reports of thromboembolic events with low platelets following vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and the health body is monitoring these reports closely and will communicate its findings.

Some 171 million doses of seven COVID-19 vaccines and products have been administered in the Europe Region.

Nearly 13% of the European population have received one vaccination dose while close to 6% have completed their series of jabs, said the WHO.

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