A "significant resurgence" in COVID-19 cases in nearly a dozen European countries risk pushing the continent's health systems to the brink once more, WHO Europe warned on Thursday.
"For weeks I have spoken about the risk of a resurgence as countries adjust to measures. In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality — 30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases of the past two weeks," Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement.
"In 11 of the countries, accelerated transmissions has led to a very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe," he added.
These countries are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Macedonia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
More than nine million people are confirmed to have been infected by COVID-19 globally while over 479,000 have lost their lives to the pandemic, according to WHO.
The 54 countries comprised in the WHO's European region account for more than 2.6 million of the cases and 195,048 fatalities.
Kluge highlighted that "last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months" and that the region reports close to 20,000 new cases and over 700 deaths every day.
He praised Poland, Germany, Spain, and Israel for their rapid and targeted interventions in response to "dangerous outbreaks of COVID-19 associated with schools, coal mines, and food production."
Germany's four-day infection rate, the R-value, jumped from 0.88 to 2.88 between June 18 and June 22 following localised outbreaks across the country including at a meat processing plant where more than 1,000 employees tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
In Poland, more than 4,000 coal mine workers were found to have been infected with the disease in late May and early June.
Most European Union member states have significantly eased lockdown restrictions imposed in March to stem the spread of the virus. Most EU countries have reopened their borders to each other and dropped requirements for EU nationals to quarantine when visiting.
There is no known cure or vaccine to treat COVID-19 although clinical trials have been accelerated.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday recommended the use of the anti-viral drug remdesivir be authorised to treat COVID-19 patients in the bloc after a trial found it reduced recovery time.
Last week, the British government announced that dexamethasone, a low-cost steroid, would be used on patients requiring ventilation after it was found to reduce deaths by up to a third.