More than 850,000 people have died across Europe due to the coronavirus, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

WHO Europe director Hans Kluge noted that while cases have fallen over the past month, the figure is 10 times higher than it was in May last year.

To date, the whole European region has reported close to 38 million cases of COVID-19, he added at a virtual news conference.

Kluge also expressed concern over some of the lingering effects of the virus that can persist, known as long-Covid, which include tiredness, brain fog and cardiac and neurological disorders.

“The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to spread at very high rates across Europe, with two variants of concern, continuing to displace other variants, increasing their reach,” he said naming the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease.

The WHO European Region includes 55 countries and stretches from Greenland in the northwest to the Russian Far East near Japan.

The official said that for the second straight week, less than 1 million new cases were reported as transmission continues to slow across the region.

“The decrease in new cases in the past month is driven by countries that have implemented new measures to slow transmission,” said Kluge.

He noted that newly reported cases had declined by almost a half since the end of 2020.

“However, to put that into perspective, the number of new cases in the region now is 10 times higher than in May last year. And it is still the case that across the region, most countries have very-high or high levels of community transmission.”

Kluge said many people are eagerly awaiting a return to “a new normal” with the lifting of restrictive measures.

– Long-term health symptoms

He also said that a significant proportion of those who have survived COVID-19 ask when and whether their health will be fully restored.

“These are the many thousands who are experiencing post-COVID conditions, also referred to as long-COVID or post-COVID syndrome.

“About one in 10 COVID-19 sufferers remain unwell after 12 weeks, and many for much longer,” said Kluge.

Also speaking at the news conference, Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that from early on “we have been hearing from people who have had COVID.

“But, instead of making the expected full recovery, they have continued to suffer, sometimes for months. We probably should have expected this.”

Although many viral infections are self-limiting, making people feel unwell for only a few days before clearing up, others cause long-term problems, he said.

“Early on, we realized that this new coronavirus was not just causing pneumonia. In some patients, it was attacking many different body systems, such as the heart and blood vessels, the brain and the kidneys.”

“This is a condition that can be extremely debilitating,” said McKee.

Those suffering from it describe varying overlapping symptoms that can include chest and muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath “and what patients describe as brain fog.”

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