The World Health Organization said Thursday that Europe’s care homes were the scene of an “unimaginable human tragedy”, with deaths there accounting for 50 percent or more in some countries.
The WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, called the situation “deeply concerning”.
Speaking at a weekly press conference, Kluge said estimates from some European countries showed that “up to half of those who have died from Covid-19 were residents in long-term care facilities.”
As of April 13, of the 444 deaths in Ireland, 245 (55.2 percent) were linked to long-term care facilities, according to figures sent to AFP by the WHO.
In France, as of April 15, 49.4 percent of deaths were linked to care facilities.
Kluge stressed that there was “an immediate and urgent need to rethink and adjust how long-term care facilities operate”.
This included prioritising screening, equipping health workers and organising special units for Covid-19 patients, even before first cases are reported.
“Even among very old people who are frail and live with multiple chronic conditions, many have a good chance of recovery if they are well-cared for,” Kluge said.
Nearly half of all reported cases of the new coronavirus worldwide have been registered in the WHO’s European region, which stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and includes 53 countries as diverse as Russia and Andorra.
Over 110,000 deaths have also been reported in the region.
The UN agency also noted with concern an increase in cases in the eastern part of its zone, particularly in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.