The World Health Organization's chief for Europe has warnedis a "tornado with a long tail" and says increased case counts among young people could ultimately be passed on to more vulnerable older people and cause an uptick in deaths. Dr. Hans Kluge said younger people are likely to come into closer contact with the elderly as the weather cools in Europe.
"We don't want to do unnecessary predictions, but this is definitely one of the options: That at one point there would be more hospitalizations and an uptick in mortality," he told reporters from Copenhagen, the WHO Europe headquarters.
Kluge said 32 out of 55 state parties and territories in WHO's European region have seen a 14-day incidence rate increase of more than 10%, calling that "definitely an uptick which is generalized in Europe."
But he also suggested health authorities and other officials are better positioned and more prepared than in February, when the continent was on the cusp of a huge surge in cases and deaths.
Europe is going back to school despite recent virus surge
Virus or no virus, European authorities are determined to put children back into classrooms, to narrow the learning gaps between haves and have-nots that deepened during lockdowns – and to get their parents back to work.
Facing a jump in virus cases, authorities in France, Britain, Spain and elsewhere are imposing mask rules, hiring extra teachers and building new desks en masse.
While the U.S. back-to-school saga has been politicized and chaotic, with a hodgepodge of fast-changing rules and backlash against President Donald Trump's insistence on reopening, European governments have faced less of an uproar.
And even though the virus has invaded classrooms in recent days from Berlin to Seoul, and some teachers and parents warn that their schools aren't ready, European leaders from the political left, right and center are sending an unusually consistent message: Even in a pandemic, children are better off in class.
France's prime minister promised Wednesday to "do everything" to get people back to school and work. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called reopening schools a "moral duty," and his government even threatened to fine parents who keep kids at home. Italy's health minister abruptly shut down discos this month with one goal in mind - "to reopen schools in September in complete safety."