0953 GMT May 06, 2021
The death toll across Europe’s 52 countries, compiled by AFP from official sources, totaled at least 1,000,288.
“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now,” said Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19.
“The trajectory of this pandemic is growing... exponentially. This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, when we have proven control measures,” she told reporters.
The coronavirus has already killed more than 2.9 million people and infected nearly 136 million across the world.
Italy has also been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries and, on Monday, Rome saw the latest in a series of anti-lockdown demonstrations, with several hundred people turning out in protest against weeks of restaurant closures.
In France, now the European country with the most infections, an expansion of the vaccine rollout has buoyed optimism among lockdown-weary residents. Everyone aged over 55 years is now eligible for a COVID vaccination.
But despite the somber news in Europe – the world’s worst-hit region – Britain eased curbs for the first time in months on Monday, allowing Britons to enjoy a taste of freedom with a pint and a haircut.
England’s hairdressers, indoor gyms and swimming pools also got the green light to reopen.
Once the worst-affected country in Europe, Britain launched a successful vaccination campaign coupled with lockdown measures that cut deaths by 95 percent and cases by 90 percent from January.
The changes illustrate how fast-vaccinating countries are leaving other – mostly poorer – nations behind.
In South Africa, the president called for African-made vaccines as the continent lags behind, struggling with inadequate supplies as well as a lack of financing and logistical problems.
“Africa needs to harness its own continental capabilities and identify opportunities for collaboration,” Cyril Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa suggested India or Brazil could help after successfully developing their own generic pharmaceutical industries.
But both giants are battling severe COVID outbreaks, with India overtaking Brazil on Monday as the country with the second-highest number of infections after logging more than 168,000 new cases in a day.
Experts have warned that huge, mostly maskless crowds at political rallies and religious festivals have fueled India’s caseload.
In the Himalayan city Haridwar, maskless Hindu pilgrims on Monday squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on the banks of the Ganges River for a dip during the Kumbh Mela ritual.
Several Indian regions have tightened their coronavirus measures, with Maharashtra – India’s wealthiest state and current epicenter of its epidemic – imposing a weekend lockdown and night curfew.
Neighboring Bangladesh has announced it will virtually seal itself off, shutting down both international and domestic transport starting Wednesday while shutting offices in an attempt to staunch its own spiraling outbreak.