Europe now region hardest hit by virus infections

PARIS: Europe has become the region with the highest number of registered cases of the new coronavirus, according to a tally by AFP at 1100 GMT on Thursday based on health authority data.
The continent’s 52 countries have a combined total of 11.6 million cases including more than 293,000 deaths, ahead of Latin America and the Caribbean which has reported 11.4 million cases with 407,000 deaths.
Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic in recent weeks after experiencing a lull during the northern hemisphere summer.
Since the beginning of October, the region has had the highest number of new infections daily in the world.
Last week, 277,000 new cases a day were recorded, more than half of the total number of cases worldwide of 517,000 daily.
And the pandemic continues to accelerate across the continent, with the number of cases detected last week 20 per cent higher than the previous week.
In terms of fatalities, the pace is even faster, with almost 50 per cent more new deaths — 21,500 last week, compared with 14,403 the week before.
The countries in the region with the most new cases in the last seven days are: France (44,000 cases daily on average, up 11 per cent over the previous week), Italy (28,600, up 43 per cent), the United Kingdom (22,400, up two per cent), Spain (21,100, up 13 per cent) and Poland (20,000, up 46 per cent).
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven went into self-isolation on Thursday and warned that the soaring coronavirus cases had created a “serious situation” again, as the country’s deaths passed 6,000.
Lofven said in a Facebook post that he was isolating with his wife at home and would get tested soon after a person within his social circle tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s the only responsible thing to do in this situation,” Lofven said.
The head of government also warned that developments were “going in the wrong direction quickly.”
“More people are infected. More people are dying. It is a serious situation,” he said.
Lofven said he had not been in direct contact with someone confirmed to have the coronavirus but someone in his “vicinity” had.
Even though that person had since tested negative, he had decided to self-isolate on the advice of his doctor.
After seeing a heavy death toll from March to June — over 5,000 in a country of 10.3 million inhabitants — Sweden registered a decrease in both cases and fatalities between July and mid-October.
Since then, the number of cases has soared and deaths have also started climbing in recent days.
On Thursday, the country reported another five deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the total to 6,002.
“Looking at the number of deceased per week, we are also seeing an impact with increases over the last two weeks,” Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of microbiology at the Public Health Agency, told a press conference.
In response to the surge, Sweden, which famously has elected to curb the virus with mostly non-coercive measures, has issued stricter recommendations for heavily hit areas.
These include calls for people to avoid crowded indoor environment and if possible all physical contact with other than people in your own household.
On Thursday, these recommendations were extended to two more regions meaning more than half of Sweden’s 21 healthcare districts have now received stricter local recommendations. Another 4,034 cases was also reported in the last 24 hours, one of the highest daily totals on record, bringing the total to 141,764 cases. — AFP