The head of the World Health Organisation has warned that Europe is "not out of the woods" as it recorded a huge rise in the number of coronavirus cases over recent days.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while deaths remained at a "relatively low level", the average number of daily cases in Europe was now higher than during the first peak of the pandemic. Spain and France in particular have faced a resurgence of the virus.
According to data from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Spain is now seeing 250 cases per 100,000 head of the population, compared to around 200 at the peak of the pandemic. The country is also witnessing a rise in the rate of deaths.
On Saturday, France reported 10,561 new cases of the disease - a record increase and a rise of 1,000 from the previous day.
The number of deaths remains low but Hans Kluge, the WHO's regional director for Europe, said these numbers would probably rise in the next few weeks as there was a time lag between new cases and deaths. "It's going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality," he said.
Dr Tedros, speaking at a meeting of the WHO's European region, agreed that the worst of the virus could be yet to come.
"Many [European] countries have been among the hardest hit. We are by no means out of the woods," he said.
He also urged richer countries to join the WHO's coronavirus vaccine facility to ensure people in low- and middle-income countries have access to the jab. He said: "If people in low- and middle-income countries miss out on vaccines, the virus will continue to kill and the economic recovery globally will be delayed."
He added: "WHO is urging countries to focus on four essential priorities.
"First, prevent amplifying events. All around the world, explosive outbreaks have been linked to gatherings at stadiums, nightclubs, places of worship and other crowds.
"Second, protect the vulnerable, to save lives and reduce the burden on the health system of severely and critically ill patients.
"Third, educate and empower communities to protect themselves and others.
"Physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and masks can all help to curb transmission and save lives - not in isolation, but together.
"And fourth, persist with the public health basics: find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine their contacts.
"Countries that do these four things, and do them well, can reopen their societies, economies and borders safely." (© Daily Telegraph)