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COVID-19 death toll in Europe surpasses 1.5 million

World Health Organization estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times the official tally

In this file photo taken on November 09, 2021 a medical staff member pushes a trolley bed carrying the body of a deceased Covid-19 coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit of Lozenets Hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria. (Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 09, 2021 a medical staff member pushes a trolley bed carrying the body of a deceased Covid-19 coronavirus patient in the intensive care unit of Lozenets Hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria. (Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP)

PARIS, France — More than 1.5 million people have died from COVID-19 in Europe since the coronavirus pandemic began, an AFP tally of official data showed Thursday as several countries reintroduce measures to try to stem the spread.

As of Thursday morning, the official death toll stood at 1,500,105 in a combined 52 countries since the first fatality was recorded in the region in February 2020, the data showed.

The figures are based on daily reports provided by each country’s health authorities. They exclude revisions made by other statistical organizations, which show that the number of deaths is much higher.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to COVID-19.

According to official statistics, Russia is the worst-affected country with 269,057 deaths, but national statistical agency Rosstat estimated the nation’s death toll at almost 450,000 by the end of September using broader criteria.

Russia has also registered almost 30 percent of Europe’s new daily deaths and an average of 1,246 new fatalities per day.

In this file photo taken on January 13, 2021 an employee moves coffins, some marked with “infection risk” as others have “corona” scrawled in chalk, in the mourning hall of the crematorium in Meissen, eastern Germany, amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (JENS SCHLUETER / AFP)

Britain with 144,286 and Italy with 133,415 follow Russia with Europe’s next highest death tolls.

The deteriorating situation prompted Austria to enter a partial lockdown this week and violent protests erupted in Belgium and the Netherlands over tougher coronavirus restrictions.

The WHO this week warned Europe might suffer around half a million extra deaths during winter and urged measures including wearing masks, practicing social distancing and expanding vaccination programs.

But vaccination rates remain particularly low in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Hungary and the Czech Republic suffering some of the world’s highest death numbers relative to their populations.

The number of new deaths has been rising since mid-July, with an average of 4,210 recorded per day in the last week.

In this file photo taken on April 12, 2021 patients infected with the coronavirus (Covid-19) lie in their beds in an intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital in Freising, southern Germany. (LENNART PREISS / AFP)

Infections last reached those levels in autumn 2020, as Europe entered a deadly second wave going into winter and before mass vaccination campaigns had started.

But the rate of increase in cases is markedly different. The number of new deaths rose fourfold in the 20 weeks between mid-July and the week of November 18 to November 24, when 29,500 were recorded.

In comparison, it took only five weeks for weekly COVID-related fatalities to jump from 7,000 to 30,000 last year as no vaccines were available to offer protection.

Infections have been increasing in Europe since early October. Officially recorded new cases reached a daily average of 369,915 between November 18 and November 24, a 14% increase on the preceding week.

A large number of less severe or asymptomatic cases remain undetected, despite intensified testing since the beginning of the pandemic.

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