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COVID-19 cases in Europe back to March level, EU health body says

Wed, 2nd Sep 2020 14:17

BRUSSELS, Sept 2 (Reuters) - COVID-19 infections in Europe
are back to levels seen in March when the outbreak began its
peak phase there, the head of the European Union's public health
agency said on Wednesday, noting however school reopenings did
not necessarily pose new risks.

"The virus has not been sleeping over the summer. It did not
take vacation," Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for
Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told EU lawmakers in a
regular hearing.

She said this week's data showed that across Europe there
were 46 cases per 100,000 people. "We are almost back to numbers
that we have seen in March," Ammon said.

Infections in March in Europe began growing steadily to
about 40 per 100,000 people at the end of the month, according
to ECDC data, and kept increasing to around 70 per 100,000 by
the end of April.

The current increase of cases was due in part to more
testing.

New cases also concern largely younger people, she said, a
new pattern that had resulted in stable hospitalisation numbers,
as the illness is more serious for older people who were hit
hard in March and April.

However, Ammon said hospitalisations were now growing again,
signalling spikes in cases also among the elderly.

The data, which concern the 27 EU countries, Britain,
Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, varied greatly between states
from 2 to 176 per 100,000 people, Ammon said without citing
specific countries.

Ammon added that the reopening of schools in September did
not necessarily pose higher risks of transmissions, as countries
in Europe that had already reopened them in the spring did not
experience spikes in cases.

However, she added it was key to introduce several safety
measures, including social distancing and frequent hand washing.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by
Alison Williams)

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