WHO warns of 'explosion' of virus cases in Europe
"We do see an explosion.... in the sense it only takes a couple of days to have over the European region an increase of one million cases," WHO's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told AFP.
And while the mortality rate could also be seen rising "little by little", Kluge cautioned that closing schools should be seen as a last resort.
"We need to keep the schools open really until last because we cannot afford a COVID-19 lost generation," Kluge said.
However the regional director also said that the "status quo is not an option," and called for "proportionate targeted measures," which could be scaled up.
Kluge stressed that governments should take into account two things: "coherence, so people see that we don't flip-flop, and... predictability, so people know if this threshold is being reach, this is what is going to happen."
He also called for the widespread use of face masks.
"With general mask wearing and strict control of social gatherings we can save 266,000 lives by February in the whole European region," Kluge said.
WHO Europe includes 53 countries, including Russia and countries in Central Asia, and on Nov. 5 reported a total of over 12 million cases recorded in the region, with nearly two million in the last seven days.
Beijing on Nov. 5 banned foreign arrivals from France and a host of other countries, the latest in a growing number of entry bans as China closes itself off from a world still battling the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 first emerged in central China late last year, but Beijing has largely brought its outbreak under control through tight travel restrictions and stringent health measures for anyone entering the country.
In March, as the virus ripped across the world, China shut its borders to all foreign nationals, although it had gradually eased the restrictions in recent months.
But in a sharp about-turn, Chinese embassies in countries including Britain, Belgium, India and the Philippines said this week that Beijing had decided to "temporarily suspend" entries by non-Chinese nationals.
France was the latest to join that list, with a statement on the Chinese embassy website dated Thursday saying non-Chinese arrivals would be barred from entering the country.
Chinese embassies in Russia, Italy and Ethiopia also announced similar measures.
Beijing defended the new restrictions on Nov. 5 as "reasonable and fair" and said it was "drawing on the practices of many countries".
China has also recently tightened requirements for travellers from several other countries, making entry much more difficult and sparking complaints that the strict new rules represent an effective ban on entry.
In France, officials are hoping a new coronavirus lockdown will bring down soaring numbers of infections, with new daily cases topping 40,000 over the past week, while Italy has imposed strict new restrictions on freedom of movement in four regions.
Russia has listed a total of nearly 1.7 million infections and more than 29,000 deaths.