Geneva, Switzerland, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- Europe has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that over 132,000 cases from 123 countries had been reported, with over 5,000 deaths.
“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” Tedros said.
The director-general added that more cases were being reported daily in Europe than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.
The announcement comes two days after the body declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic following a dramatic surge of cases in Europe.
The virus originated in the central Chinese province of Hubei late last year, and has since spread to other parts of Asia, to the MIddle East and Europe, and on to the Americas.
The rate of infections has started to slow in China, with just 26 new cases reported on Thursday, but cases continue to explode in Europe, with Italy and Spain the main hotspots.
But while “China has certainly peaked and there is certainly a decline”, there remains a chance that the number of infections could rise again, the WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove warned.
Italy, which has been on a nationwide lockdown since March 9, remains the worst affected country in Europe and outside of China, with over 15,000 cases, followed by Spain (more than 4,300), Germany (over 3,150) and France (at least 2,882).
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also delivered a stark warning on Thursday, predicting that 70 percent of the population would be infected unless the necessary steps were taken.
Drastic containment measures were being rolled out across the continent, with the Netherlands banning all gatherings of more than 100 people, while Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Ireland have closed all schools for at least two weeks.
Sporting events, including top flight soccer, across Europe have also been suspended.
Tedros urged authorities to undertake coordinated and comprehensive measures to slow the dramatic spread.
“Any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks that won’t happen to us is making a deadly mistake, it can happen to any country,” he said.