The number of weekly coronavirus cases in Europe topped 300,000 last week – higher than during the first peak in March – triggering grave warnings from health experts.
Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, the World Health Organisation's European director Dr Hans Kluge warned that Europe was facing a “very serious” situation and advised against "even a slight reduction in the length of the quarantine".
The WHO's European director said more than half of European countries have registered a greater than 10 per cent rise in infections in the past two weeks.
Dr Kluge said: "We have a very serious situation unfolding before us.
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"Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.
"Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.
"More than half of European countries have reported a greater than 10 per cent increase in cases in the past two weeks.
"Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period."
Dr Kluge added: "In the spring and early summer we were able to see the impact of strict lockdown measures. Our efforts, our sacrifices, paid off.
"In June cases hit an all-time low. The September case numbers, however, should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.
"Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region."
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned on Wednesday that the number of newly reported cases over a 14-day period for the EU, European Economic Area and the UK “has been increasing for more than 50 days, with over half of all EU countries currently experiencing an increase in cases”.
The ECDC added that while the rising number of reported cases will partly be due to increased testing, it is also due to the relaxation of social distancing and other preventive measures.