Europe this week set a record for new COVID infections, overtaking the United States in cases per capita. New cases in Europe surpassed the US last month, and cases within the EU were higher than US cases by last week.

Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, on Thursday warned that death rates on the continent this winter could be five times as bad as the April peak without effective measures.

France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all posted records Thursday. Health authorities have warned that death rates, though far lower than the April peak, are also rising.

British prime minister Boris Johnson earlier ordered pubs in hard-hit areas closed. Italy on Thursday reported 8,804 cases, its highest daily number during the pandemic.

France has emerged as a hot spot, with 120,000 cases over the past week. Authorities have warned that COVID patients could make up as much of 90% of intensive care unit capacity by the end of October.

Germany is also putting in place new restrictions: “We cannot afford, economically, to have a second wave with the same consequences that occurred in the spring. That means we have to do everything we can to keep the infection numbers under control and to trace the contacts”, said German chancellor Angela Merkel. The country on Thursday posted a record 6,638 new infections.

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