Geneva (Switzerland) | Jagran News Desk: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday warned that Europe could emerge as an "epicenter" of the COVID-19 pandemic despite high vaccination rate, noting that the continent saw a more than 50 per cent jump in coronavirus cases in the last month.

Expressing concerns over the rising COVID-19 cases in 53 European countries, the top global health body also warned that Europe could see another half a million deaths by February next year. "There may be plenty of vaccine available, but uptake of vaccine has not been equal," WHO emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan was quoted as saying by AP.

The WHO has asked European countries to "close the gap" in their vaccination drive. However, it has said that countries should donate vaccines to developing countries instead of providing booster shots to their people. "No more boosters should be administered except to immuno-compromised people," AP quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying.

Here's a detailed report of COVID-19 cases in Europe:

According to WHO, Europe saw a 6 per cent rise in its new COVID-19 cases last week compared to the week before. During the same period, the number of deaths rose 12 per cent, the WHO data said.

As per the data, Germany, Europe's biggest economy, reported 33,949 new infections, the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic last year. Similarly, Russia has been reporting more than 40,000 new cases and nearly 2,000 deaths daily over the past few days.

Officials, quoted by AP, said that 25 per cent of the new cases are being reported in Moscow and the surrounding region. It should be noted that less than 35 per cent of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Austria, where roughly 64 per cent of people are fully vaccinated, has also been hit by another COVID-19 wave. On Thursday, it reported 8,594 new cases - a 32 per cent increase from Wednesday - following which restrictions were imposed in nine of its provinces.

Meanwhile, Britain, which has become the first country in the world to approve a potentially "game-changing" COVID-19 antiviral pill 'molnupiravir', has about 40,000 daily cases of COVID-19, according to the latest seven-day average. That is second only to the roughly 74,000 a day in the United States (US), which has five times more people and has fuelled criticism of the government's decision to abandon most pandemic-related restrictions.

Data released on Wednesday night showed COVID-19 prevalence in England hit its highest level on record last month, led by a high number of cases in children and a surge in the southwest of the country.

On the other hand, Slovakia reported 6,713 new cases, also a record, while daily new cases in Hungary more than doubled from last week to 6,268. Poland, Eastern Europe's biggest economy, reported 15,515 daily cases on Thursday, the highest figure since April. Croatia and Slovenia on Thursday both reported record daily infections.

Fresh curbs in Europe:

Following a rise in COVID-19 cases, the Hungarian government has urged people to take up vaccines and last week announced mandatory vaccinations at state institutions, also empowering private companies to make jabs mandatory for employees if they believe that is necessary.

Romania - where hospitals cannot cope with a surge in COVID-19 patients - the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have all tightened rules on mask wearing and introduced measures to curb infections.

The Czech Republic has introduced a requirement for restaurant customers to show proof of vaccination or a test. It also has tough mask regulations and some children are again being tested in schools in areas where cases are higher.

In Poland, mask wearing is mandatory in enclosed public spaces while cinemas, theatres and hotels have a 75 per cent capacity limit. The Hungarian government has not replied to Reuters questions on potential measures.

(With inputs from Reuters, AP)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma