The World Health Organisation has said that coronavirus cases have tripled across Europe in the past six weeks, accounting for nearly half of all infections globally. Hospitalisation rates have also doubled, although intensive care admissions have remained low.
In a statement on Tuesday, WHO's Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge, described Covid-19 as "a nasty and potentially deadly illness" that people should not underestimate.
He said super-infectious relatives of the omicron variant were driving new waves of disease across the continent and that repeat infections could potentially lead to long Covid.
"With rising cases, we're also seeing a rise in hospitalisations, which are only set to increase further in the autumn and winter months," Dr Kluge said. "This forecast presents a huge challenge to the health workforce in country after country, already under enormous pressure dealing with unrelenting crises since 2020."
Earlier this week, editors of two British medical journals said the country's National Health Service has never before had so many parts of the system so close to collapsing. Kamran Abbasi, of the BMJ and Alastair McLellan of the Health Service Journal wrote in a joint editorial that the UK government was failing to address persistent problems worsened by COVID, including ambulances lining up outside hospitals too overloaded to accept new patients.
They slammed the government's insistence that vaccines have broken the link between infections and hospitalizations. Although vaccines dramatically reduce the chances of severe disease and death, they have not made a significant dent in transmission.
"The government must stop gaslighting the public and be honest about the threat the pandemic still poses," the editors wrote.