The World Health Organization’s Europe director reported Thursday that new COVID-19 cases rose 9% to just over a million in the region last week.
Hans Kluge said it was the first increase in new infections after six weeks of decline.
At a virtual news briefing from his headquarters in Copenhagen, Kluge told reporters that more than half the region saw increases in new cases.
Kluge said most of the resurgence was seen in central and eastern Europe, although new cases were also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high.
“Over a year into the pandemic, our health systems should not be in this situation. We need to get back to the basics," he said.
He said the high rates of transmission and rapid spread of variants require increased vigilance, improved testing and isolation of cases, tracing and quarantining contacts, and care.
Kluge said the so-called British variant has been reported in 43 of 53 countries in the region; the South African variant in 26 countries; and the variant originally identified in Brazil and Japan in 15 countries.
The WHO Europe chief urged nations to accelerate the rollout of vaccines, saying they are already saving lives, with hospitalizations and deaths in most at-risk groups declining significantly.
Kluge said 45 countries have started vaccinations in the European region.
He also called on leaders to reengage with their communities to counter “pandemic fatigue” to prevent people from putting aside preventative measures.