The total Covid cases in world passed one quarter of a billion along with the death toll surpassing five million last week. The governments of several nations claim these horrifying milestones to be highly overstated. However, health experts deny it. According to the Economist, coronavirus has killed over 17 million people.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has resurfaced in Europe, fueled by daily records of deaths and cases in Russia, as well as surges in Ukraine, Poland and Germany.

"Over the last four weeks, there has been a more than 55 percent increase in cases in Europe, where there is ample supply of vaccines and tools," said World Health Organization (WHO) technical lead Maria Van Kerkove.

As Europe enters its second pandemic winter, multiple countries are seeing an exponential rise in COVID-19 infections. According to Reuters, the number of new cases in the region increased by 6% last week, to nearly 1.8 million, compared to the week before. The number of deaths increased by 12%. 

Germany recorded more than 37,000 daily COVID cases on Friday (November 5), a new high for the second day in a row. This came days after German health officials said the country was entering a fourth wave of the pandemic. 

Cases are also on the rise in Russia, Ukraine, and Greece. The upward trend follows a recent uptick in the United Kingdom also.

We are, once again, at the epicentre: WHO

The World Health Organization has issued a call to action, stating that the pandemic has reached a "critical point" in Europe. According to the group, another 500,000 COVID deaths could occur in the region by February.

"We are, once again, at the epicentre," says Hans Kluge, the agency's European director.

High or extreme stress on hospital beds could be seen in 43 of the 53 countries Kluge oversees. "In wake of the virus's widespread resurgence, I urge every health authority to carefully consider easing or lifting restrictions at this time."

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Low vaccination rate to be blamed

According to the WHO, the resurgence is due to inequitable vaccine coverage and the premature relaxation of public safety measures.

According to data, vaccination rates in Eastern Europe are among the lowest in the region. Ukraine, for example, is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of vaccination, with only 26% of the country's 41 million people receiving at least one vaccine dose.

A wake-up call for India

India recorded 11,451 new coronavirus cases, up 5.5 percent from the previous day. This brings the total number of cases to 3,43,66,987. 

266 deaths have been reported since yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 4,61,057 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, Karnataka has at least five suspected patients infected with a new Covid variant- AY.4.2.

The AY.4.2 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is suspected of being the source of the outbreak in the UK, Germany, and Russia. It is reportedly about 10% more infectious than its "parent" variant, the Delta variant, and could eventually replace it.

However, according to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), the current frequency of the new variant is too low to be concerning and the vaccine effectiveness against it appears to be comparable to other Delta variants.

D. Randeep, the Karnataka Health Commissioner, has stated that the discovery of the new Covid variant AY 4.2 in the state is no reason to panic. 

Experts on third wave in India

Unless there is a new immune escaping variant, India is unlikely to see another Covid wave as devastating as the second one. However, the lower number of cases does not necessarily mean the pandemic is now endemic, said experts.

According to experts, a dipping Covid graph is only part of the picture and pointed to factors such as the mortality rate, the need for a larger vaccination blanket. The health officials point out examples of countries such as the UK where numbers are once again rising.

Virologist Shahid Jameel, a day after India reached the milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses said that vaccination rates have improved significantly but more work needs to be done.

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The weak link in India’s fight against Covid

Neglection of Covid appropriate behaviour during the festive season is likely to be proven as the weak link in battle against the deadly pandemic. 

Despite government restrictions and several bans, crowds gathered at markets during major Hindu festivals like Dussehra, Dhanteras, Diwali and Bhai dooj etc, for shopping or visiting relatives. 

Covid guidelines were violated and repercussions could be seen in the next three months. 

Today, India celebrates Chhath Pooja and thousands of people ignore covid safety measures and take a dip in the holy river (that too has become severely polluted).

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