At a press conference in Copenhagen, the WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters it was time to “step up the measures” as rising case numbers on the continent were of “great concern”.
But he said the situation was not as bad as the peak in March and April, and stressed that full-on lockdowns “where every corner of our society and economy has been halted” should be avoided.
“The collateral damage on the people was too much,” he said, encouraging governments not to “hold back with relatively smaller actions”.
People’s mental health, the risk of domestic violence and children’s education should all be taken into consideration, he added.
Kluge said confirmed cases in the organisation’s 53 European member states had climbed from 6m to more than 7m in 10 days, with records set on 9 and 10 October, when daily totals exceeded 120,000 cases for the first time.
But he said an increase in testing was partly responsible for the rise in confirmed cases, while greater transmission among younger, less vulnerable people, plus hospitals’ improved ability to manage severe cases, was helping to lower the mortality rate.
There was plainly “a realistic potential” for the epidemic to worsen drastically, however, if the disease spread back into older and more vulnerable age groups “as a result of more intense social contacts between generations”.