Germany has recorded almost 34,000 daily Covid cases in the past 24 hours, its highest number so far, in what the health minister is calling a “massive pandemic of the unvaccinated”.
Sixteen million Germans have not had a jab. However hospital intensive care cases are still lower than in spring.
The World Health Organization has warned of a possible half a million more deaths in Europe by February.
Europe head Hans Kluge blamed insufficient vaccine take-up.
He said a relaxation of public health measures was also behind the rise in Covid cases in the WHO’s European region, which covers 53 countries including parts of Central Asia. So far the WHO has recorded 1.4m deaths across the region.
While the Covid numbers in Germany are still well below the UK’s average daily case numbers of more than 41,000, public health officials there are worried that a fourth wave of infection could lead to a large number of deaths and pressure on the health system. In the past 24 hours 165 deaths have been recorded, up from 126 a week ago.
Lothar Wieler of Germany’s RKI institute spoke of terrifying numbers. “If we don’t take counter-measures now, this fourth wave will bring yet more suffering,” he said. Among the many Germans who have not been vaccinated are more than three million over-60s, seen at particular risk.
German restaurants and cafes require people to have proof of vaccination or recovery before entry, or in many cases a negative test, but the rules are not always applied.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said he had been asked more times for his vaccination certificate in one day in Rome at the weekend than he had been over four weeks in Germany.
But as Hans Kluge points out, the surge in cases is not confined to Germany.
Russia and Ukraine have seen the most dramatic rises in infections and deaths.
Romania recorded its highest number of deaths in 24 hours this week at 591.
This week the Dutch government said it would reimpose mask-wearing and social distancing in many public settings as it emerged that hospital admissions had gone up 31% in a week.
In Hungary, daily Covid infections have more than doubled in the past week to 6,268. Mask-wearing is only required on public transport and in hospitals.
Slovakia has reported its second highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic and Czech infections have returned to levels last seen in spring.
Latvia is imposing a three-month state of emergency from Monday amid a record level of Covid infection.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said on Wednesday that too many people believed the pandemic was over.
However, in countries with the highest vaccination rates, infection rates are still relatively low.
Italy has one of the highest vaccination rates for over-12s but even here new cases are up 16.6% in the past week.
Portuguese infections have risen above 1,000 for the first time since September. Spain is one of the few countries not to see a rise in transmission with 2,287 cases reported on Wednesday.