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COVID-19 spread in Europe appears to be slowing, says WHO official

COVID-19 spread in Europe appears to be slowing, says WHO official
© getty: A sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) is seen at the entrance of the UN agency's headquarters on May 18, 2018 in Geneva.

The spread of COVID-19 in Europe appears to be slowing after several weeks of rising cases, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday. 

The United Nations health agency said that new infection rates are falling for the first time in months, according to The New York Times. New cases dropped to 1.8 million last week, down 10 percent from two weeks ago. 

“It is a small signal, but it is a signal nevertheless,” Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said at a news conference, the Times reported. While Kluge warned that the virus is still a serious threat, he said that the continent could turn the tide. 

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Despite the drop, Europe made up nearly half of the 4 million new cases reported around the world last week, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday. 

The number of deaths in Europe are still rising, with 4,500 people dying every day from the virus, the Times notes. Kludge said that better days lie ahead due to the effectiveness of collective actions and the promise of a vaccine.

“There is more hope ahead of us than despair behind us," he said.

Kluge said in late October that Europe had become the epicenter of the pandemic after it recorded a record number of confirmed cases. Several European nations, including France, Germany and Greece, are currently in the middle of their second coronavirus lockdowns. 

The WHO is still against lockdowns except for a last resort, and Kludge said that they could be avoidable if mask compliance is above 90 percent, the Times reports. Compliance across Europe currently sits at around 60 percent. 

Kludge reportedly said the goal should be “coherence and predictability” and that restrictions should be based on epidemiological markers and assessments of health care systems' capacity.