WHO warns Europe could see another 700K COVID-19 deaths by spring

The European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that Europe could hit over 2 million total COVID-19 deaths by March. 

The WHO said in a statement that the pandemic's cumulative death toll in the European region was projected to reach over 2.2 million by next spring, a number which would include 700,000 more deaths in the coming months. 

It added that the 53-country region had already surpassed 1.5 million deaths, and noted that COVID-19 is currently the leading cause of death in Europe and central Asia. 

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The agency also projected that 25 countries were expected to have "high or extreme stress on hospital beds," and 49 countries could expect to see "high or extreme stress in intensive care units" between now and March 2022. 

"In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach. This means getting the standard doses of vaccine, taking a booster if offered, as well as incorporating preventive measures into our normal routines," Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said in the statement.

However, the U.N. health agency’s international headquarters in Geneva has said wealthy countries should hold off on providing booster shots as initial vaccine doses continue to be distributed among poorer nations.   

"All of us have the opportunity and responsibility to help avert unnecessary tragedy and loss of life, and limit further disruption to society and businesses over this winter season," Klunge added in the statement on Tuesday.