There is a “worrying trend” of increased hospitalizations and intensive care unit rates in some European countries, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme Covid-19 technical lead.
“We haven’t even started to hit the flu season yet. So we’re worried that these increasing numbers of hospitalizations and ICU are really going to overburden an already burdened system,” said Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist.
She said there is an increase of circulation of the virus, with outbreaks in younger people as societies open up.
The United Kingdom has a doubling of hospitalizations about every eight days, and parts of France are reaching ICU capacity, she said.
“If the beds are full with Covid patients, it will be very challenging for the health care system to deal with other respiratory diseases,” she said, encouraging people to get their flu shots as fall and winter approach.
As Covid-19 infections spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt a second wave of the pandemic.
But WHO regional director Hans Kluge said at a Thursday news conference that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what is to come.
“Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” Kluge said. “Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.”