Second year of pandemic 'could even be tougher' - WHO

"We are going into a second year of this, it could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing," Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergencies official, said during an event on social media.

The worldwide death toll is approaching 2 million people since the pandemic began, with 91.5 million people infected.

The WHO, in its latest epidemiological update issued overnight, said after two weeks of fewer cases being reported, some five million new cases were reported last week, the likely result of a letdown of defenses during the holiday season in which people - and the virus - came together.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, warned: "After the holidays, in some countries the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better."

Amid growing fears of the more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain but now entrenched worldwide, governments across Europe on Wednesday announced tighter, longer coronavirus restrictions.

Video Transcript

MIKE RYAN: Going into a second year of this could even be tougher, given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we're seeing. So we need to really focus on taking the positives, looking at what's worked in every country and then transferring that knowledge to others. And it doesn't matter if things have worked in communication, things have not worked, things have worked in governance, that have not worked, things have worked in science, that have not worked. We've got to find the best possible combination of all our learning across all of our member states, including the United States.

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: With the holidays over the last several weeks, in some countries, the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better. And I think those countries know who they are. And I think those countries are putting systems in place to be able to make sure that they can treat patients because more cases means more individuals who will need hospitalization, who will need clinical care, who will need ICU beds. And unfortunately, despite great efforts and our ability to provide oxygen and dexamethasone and others, people will die. So we have to do what we can to prevent as many infections as we can.