The 53-country region that makes up Europe under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO) said it reached a record of confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1.5 million new infections last week, the organization's European director said Thursday.
There have been more than 10 million confirmed cases since the pandemic began this year, according to The Associated Press.
“Europe is at the epicenter of this pandemic once again,” WHO European regional director Hans Kluge said in a meeting with European health ministers, according to AP. “At the risk of sounding alarmist, I must express our very real concern.”
Kluge said that deaths have increased by more than 30 percent in the past week and hospitalizations have reached their highest levels since spring, AP reported.
In additional to what is typically considered part of Europe, the WHO's European division includes Russia as well as central Asian countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in its 53-country count, according to AP.
Despite the increase in cases, Kluge said nationwide lockdowns should be viewed as a last resort. He cited the economic toll and effects on mental health as his reasoning behind keeping countries open.
Several European countries have begun to take restrictive measures to curb the spread of the virus including Germany, Ireland and France, which have all implemented shutdowns.
Kluge warned last month that increases in infections even faster than they were in March should "serve as a wake-up call.”