Europe saw an increase in weekly coronavirus cases for the first time in months last week, with the World Health Organisation warning 11 countries had witnessed a “significant resurgence”.
Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said if nothing was done to stem the tide, European health systems could be pushed to the brink once again as countries begin to ease their way out of months of lockdown.
The WHO’s European region, which technically includes the Middle East and Central Asia, has reported more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases and some 195,000 deaths.
“For weeks, I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures. Thirty countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks,” said Mr Kluge.
“In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe," he warned.
He did not identify individual countries or provide detailed figures, but Germany and Portugal brought in restrictions earlier this week as infections grew.
Germany, which began easing measures about seven weeks ago, reimposed lockdowns on Tuesday on more than 600,000 people in two districts in the western part of the country after an outbreak at a slaughterhouse infected more than 1,500 workers.
But Mr Kluge singled out Poland, Germany, Spain and Israel for their swift responses to outbreaks in schools, coal mines, and food production settings in recent weeks.
"Where new clusters of cases appeared, these have been controlled through rapid and targeted interventions. This is very good news," he said.
Mr Kluge also cautioned that the coronavirus could complicate the global health situation later in the year.
"But we have indeed to prepare for the fall, when Covid-19 may meet seasonal influenza, pneumonia, other diseases as well, because ultimately the virus is still actively circulating in our communities and there is no effective treatment, no effective vaccine, yet,” he said.
In the UK a major incident, meaning a heightened response from emergency services is needed, was declared as thousands flocked to the beach at a town in southern England to bask in high temperatures.
The local council hit out at the “irresponsible behaviour” of people amid a time when emergency services are already stretched.