The current rate of Covid-19 transmission in Europe is of “grave concern”, the World Health Organisation‘s Europe head, Hans Kluge, told a media briefing on Thursday.

“The current pace of transmission across the 53 countries of the European Region, is of grave concern,” Mr Kluge said, adding that new cases were nearing record levels, exacerbated by the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus.

Belgium on Thursday reported a steep rise in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations back to levels last experienced in October 2020, three days after the United States advised its citizens against travelling to the country that hosts the EU and NATO headquarters.

Data from Belgium’s Sciensano health institute showed 6,728 daily new cases on average in the last 14 days, up 36 per cent from the previous week. An average of 164 patients with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals daily in the last seven days, a 31 per cent increase, and 343 patients were in intensive care.

Belgium went into its second coronavirus lockdown in October 2020, a few days after recording similar hospitalisation numbers.

On Monday, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) added Belgium to its highest risk level, discouraging international travel there for those not fully vaccinated.

“Because of the current situation in Belgium, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants,” it said.

There are nine other European countries on the US maximum Covid risk level including Britain, Austria, Croatia, Greece and the Baltic countries.

More than 8.6 million people in Belgium have been fully vaccinated, 74 per cent of its population. But the country has eased face mask requirements in recent months and is now facing a fresh spike in infections as winter nears.

So far in the nearly two years of the pandemic, Belgium has had one of the world’s highest per capita mortality rates, mostly due to deaths in care homes in the first wave.


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