The World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological COVID-19 update that Europe again was leading the world in percentages of new cases and deaths from the disease.
The WHO said the number of new cases in Europe rose by 7% last week and the number of deaths rose by 10%. Africa was the only other region to report an increase in new cases.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called for an urgent meeting with state governors after the nation’s Robert Koch Institute for Infectious diseases reported a record number of COVID-19 cases for a single day.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told the DPA news agency the disease was "spreading dramatically" and said a "quick and unified response" was required.
Seibert said Merkel was conducting talks with ministers, regional governments and likely future coalition parties.
The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, acknowledged the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Europe during a Wednesday news briefing in Brussels. Spokeswoman Dana Spinant described the situation as "complex" and "rapidly changing," adding that member states were discussing next steps to be taken.
Bulgaria seeks help
It was also announced that Bulgaria on Wednesday activated the European bloc’s civil protection mechanism, an emergency designation in which member states request assistance with disasters or other emergencies.
Bulgaria, which reported 334 COVID-19 patient deaths on Tuesday — the country's highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic — requested oxygen devices, patient monitors and hospital beds.
In the U.S., drugmaker Pfizer on Tuesday filed a request with the Food and Drug Administration to make booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine available to all U.S. adults 18 or older. The request cited a new clinical trial involving 10,000 volunteers who had each received a third injection of the two-dose vaccine, which it developed in collaboration with Germany-based BioNTech. Pfizer said preliminary results showed the third shot boosted a person’s protection against the virus to about 95%.
The request came weeks after the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized third shots of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 65 and older, adults at high risk of severe illness and front-line workers such as teachers, health care workers and others whose jobs place them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
The Pfizer booster shot is available for people regardless of whether they initially received the two-shot Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which offers less protection than either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.