Europe has half of world's 4M new virus cases but sees hope

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Police uses water canons to clear a blocked a road between the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building, home of the German federal parliament, as people attend a protest rally in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 against the coronavirus restrictions in Germany. Police in Berlin have requested thousands of reinforcements from other parts of Germany to cope with planned protests by people opposed to coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

GENEVA – Europe made up almost half of the world’s 4 million new coronavirus cases last week but recorded a nearly 10% fall in infections compared to the week before, thanks in part to strict government lockdown measures that have fanned some discontent, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

In the German capital of Berlin, violent clashes between those protesting coronavirus restrictions and police erupted Wednesday near the city center after protesters disregarded police advice to wear masks and social distance.

The latest weekly tally from the U.N. health agency found its 54-nation European region continued to report most new cases of any region worldwide — 46% — but its decline in cases followed “the strengthening of public health and social measures.” But as new cases fell, the tally of virus deaths still rose “substantially” in Europe over the last week to more than 29,000 new deaths, WHO said.

WHO's Americas region saw a 41% increase in new cases, suggesting that a higher weekly death toll could soon follow there. Southeast Asia was the only region that saw a drop in cases and deaths.

In Europe, WHO said the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases was in Austria, which saw a 30% increase in new cases compared to the previous week. WHO also noted the U.K. was the first country in the region to record more than 50,000 deaths.

Pockets of Western Europe have shown signs of turning a corner, particularly in the lowlands near the English Channel.

Belgium said Wednesday it had taken a major step in containing the resurgence of the coronavirus, reporting a drop in the daily death count for the first time since the latest COVID-19 wave hit this autumn.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht, from the government's Sciensano health group, said Belgium's daily average of virus deaths now stood at 185, a 5% decrease compared to the average a week ago. Over the last week, the daily average of hospital admissions dropped 24% and new infections fell 39%.