Members of the public queue outside a pharmacy to receive COVID-19 antigen tests in Paris on Jan 6, 2022, as COVID-19 cases soar in Europe. (LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

STOCKHOLM / VALLETTA / PARIS – Europe is engulfed by a new COVID-19 wave as the number of new infections has tripled in six weeks, the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Wednesday.

In the past week, close to 3 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the European region, accounting for nearly half of all new cases globally, the World Health Organization said Tuesday in a press release

The wave is mainly driven by the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which account for 80 percent of the total infections in Europe right now, Agoritsa Baka, a senior ECDC expert, told Swedish Television.

In the past week, close to 3 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the European region, accounting for nearly half of all new cases globally, the World Health Organization said Tuesday in a press release.

Hospital admissions have reportedly doubled in Europe in recent weeks.

ALSO READ: More EU countries consider 2nd booster jab amid COVID surge

Referring to WHO statistics, Swedish Television reported that nearly 3,000 Europeans die of COVID-19 every week.

It said the situation in Sweden is stable, but in several other countries in Europe, the number of deaths has increased in recent weeks.

This has led the ECDC to the conclusion that pandemic measures may be needed again, "such as face mask requirements in public transport and restrictions on larger gatherings," Baka said.

There are also concerns that a new subvariant, BA.2.75, may further increase the number of infections. After rapidly spreading in India, it has also been discovered in 15 other countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.

It is however too early to say whether it is more dangerous than the current subvariants, Baka said.

"We do not have enough knowledge about it to be able to say anything now. But we are keeping a close eye on its transmission and waiting for more data from countries where it circulates," she was quoted by Swedish Television as saying.

People queue outside the Stade de France stadium, which has been converted into a temporary COVID-19 vaccination site, in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, April 6, 2021. (THOMAS SAMSON / POOL VIA AP)


France will offer a second COVID-19 booster jab to at-risk adults aged from 18 to 59, as well as pregnant women and those who live with vulnerable or immunocompromised people, the French newspaper Le Parisien reported Wednesday.

This newly enlarged vaccination campaign will target around five million people, it said.

The second booster is administered with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines at least three months after the first booster shot, or after six months for those aged over 80.

Last week, the French national health authority HAS recommended a second booster dose to adults under 60 who were "identified as being at risk of a severe form of COVID-19."

"You have to get vaccinated now, without waiting for new vaccines, to be protected from the risk of a severe form," the Ministry of Health told the public on Wednesday.

People queue outside tents set up for either Covid-19 positive or in quarantine voters to cast their vote in Zejtun on March 26, 2022 during Malta's general election. (PHOTO/AFP)


Malta has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths and the highest positivity rate in Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control  said on Wednesday.

According to the ECDC's latest weekly report covering the 14-day period until July 10, Malta registered 36.8 COVID-19 deaths per one million people. Greece came second with 27.9 deaths.

The number of patients infected with the virus in Malta has spiked in the past few weeks but is on the decrease again.

The rate peaked at over 60 deaths per one million people in April before dropping and then increasing again in mid-June.

There have been 778 COVID-19-related deaths in Malta since the start of the pandemic and 219 new cases were reported on Wednesday alone.

Malta's estimated total population is 500,000 people.

The country's positivity rate is also breaching records. Currently it is 40.6 percent. Only Hungary, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have higher rates. According to the ECDC, Malta's positivity rate has doubled in a week.