Experts say Europe's high infection rate is due in large part to expanded testing that is turning up far more asymptomatic positives than during the first wave, when only the sick could get a test.
But the trend is nevertheless alarming, given the flu season hasn’t even begun, schools are open for in-person learning and the cold weather hasn’t yet driven Europeans indoors, where infection can spread more easily.
“We’re seeing 98,000 cases reported in the last 24 hours. That’s a new regional record. That’s very alarming,” said Robb Butler, Executive Director of the WHO’s Europe regional office.
While part of that is due to increased testing, “It’s also worrisome in terms of virus resurgence.”
It’s also worrisome given many countries still lack the testing, tracing and treating capacity to deal with a second wave of coronavirus infections when the first wave never really ended, said Dr. Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“They should have been using the time to put in place really robust ‘find, test, trace, isolate’ support systems. Not everybody did,” McKee said.
“Had they done that, then they could have identified outbreaks as they were emerging and really gone for the sources.”
Even Italy is struggling amid the surge of Covid-19 cases in Europe, after it won international praise for having tamed the virus with a strict 10-week lockdown and instituted a careful, conservative reopening and aggressive screening and contact-tracing effort when summer vacation travelers created new clusters.