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Europe accounted for almost half of the world's new COVID-19 infections last week

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A medical operator performs COVID-19 test swabs in the Church of San Severo Outside the Walls, in the heart of Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.
A medical operator performs COVID-19 test swabs in the Church of San Severo Outside the Walls, in the heart of Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.   -   Copyright  Alessandro Pone/LaPresse
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The World Health Organization said Wednesday that Europe made up almost half of the world's four million new coronavirus cases last week.

It had the most new cases of any continent at 46% of the worldwide total.

But Europe's COVID-19 tally declined by 10% compared to the previous week following "the strengthening of public health and social measures" in the region, according to the WHO.

As cases fell, the death toll rose to a total of more than 29,000 - accounting for 49% of all deaths worldwide.

The sharpest rise in coronavirus cases was in Austria, which saw a 30% increase in new cases compared to last week.

The worst-hit country in Europe is Belgium, which has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world - 129 deaths per 100,000 people.

Spain is the second-worst affected, with 89 deaths per 100,000.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht, from the government's Sciensano health group, said the daily average of deaths in the country now stood at 185 people, a 5% decrease compared to the average a week ago.

Switzerland's hospitals are struggling to keep up with a steep rise in ICU patients, a contrast to its relatively light first wave of the pandemic.

"Swiss intensive care units are at the limit of their regular bed capacity," the Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine said.

All of the 876 certified ICU beds in the country were occupied on Wednesday and doctors have advised vulnerable people to write a will indicating whether they would like to receive life support if they become seriously ill.

Andreas Stettbacher, the surgeon general of the Swiss armed forces said a further 240 non-certified beds were available. The Swiss military has been called in to support efforts throughout the country.

The Alpine country is not under a full lockdown but its infections per capita this month have been around double the EU average.