COPENHAGEN, June 18 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe rang the "alarm bells" on Thursday by pointing out disturbing increases in "incidence and numbers" of coronavirus infections in countries of eastern Europe despite weeks of COVID-19 cases declining in other European countries.
"In the past month, the number of European countries showing significant increases in cumulative incidence has more than tripled from six to 21 countries," said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, during a regular virtual meeting hosted in Copenhagen.
Kluge's remarks dispelled any notion of taking false security from WHO statistics that could show the European region had "stabilized at around 17,000 to 20,000 cases per day on average due to weeks of cases declining in other countries."
"COVID-19 is still in a very active phase in many countries. It is crucial that we continue to recover and rebuild following the lockdown," said the WHO official.
Dr. Kluge emphasized the need to remain diligent and lift restrictions with care, citing the reopening of schools in a few countries that resulted in local "flares."
In his oft-repeated clarion call to countries in the region, Dr. Kluge asked them to strengthen the preparedness and readiness of their emergency services and routine health system delivery, because he was "hoping for the best but preparing for the worst" of a likely resurgence of COVID-19.
"We are not out of the woods. Lockdowns and social distancing have gained us time," he said, reiterating that "the risk remains high across all countries."
Kluge said that "it is important that the authorities fully invest in having an aggressive track, test and trace surveillance system to avoid costly additional lockdowns in the weeks and months ahead should the virus rebound."