COPENHAGEN -- The World Health Organization's European office said Thursday it saw "encouraging signs" in the spread of the novel coronavirus but warned that it was too soon to say whether the worst had passed.
"While the situation remains very serious, we are starting to see some encouraging signs," WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, told a press conference, noting that Italy has reported a lower rate of new coronavirus infections.
"Italy, which has the highest number of cases in the region, has just seen a slightly lower rate of increase, though it is still too early to say that the pandemic is peaking in that country," he added.
WHO Europe said that to date over 220,000 cases of COVID-19 had been reported on the continent, along with 11,987 deaths. According to AFP estimates, which are based on official figures, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe has already surpassed 250,000.
As the new coronavirus has spread across the continent, many European countries have adopted severe measures to curb the outbreak, including imposing lockdown measures and closing businesses and borders, as well as limiting public gatherings.
According to Kluge they will soon be able to determine the degree to which those measures have had an impact.
But Kluge also cautioned governments and citizens to be aware of the "new reality" created by the pandemic and prepare for the long term impact.
"This is not going to be a sprint, this is going to be a marathon," Kluge said.