Europe is facing a “very serious situation” with the coronavirus spreading at “alarming rates,” the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, as France reported its highest number of new cases in 24 hours since the outbreak hit.

The number of new Covid-19 cases in Europe has surpassed the spikes observed during the first wave of the disease that swept across the continent early this year, WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge said during a news conference on Thursday.

“Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” he said. “Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.”

Over half of European nations have reported an increase of more than 10 percent in their new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, while seven of them have seen a more-than-twofold increase, the official said, urging the nations to re-impose lockdown measures as soon as possible.

“In the spring and early summer we were able to see the impact of strict lockdown measures. Our efforts, our sacrifices, paid off. In June, cases hit an all-time low. The September case numbers, however, should serve as a wake-up call for all of us,” he warned.

Even those countries which been relatively spared by the pandemic have observed a sharp increase in active cases. Ireland, for instance, currently has over 6,600 coronavirus patients – with some 32,000 cases registered in total since the beginning of the pandemic. Irish health experts warned on Wednesday the country might be facing an “exponential growth” in cases, urging everyone to “immediately act to break chains of transmission of the virus.”

France, which is among the worst coronavirus-affected nations in Europe, registered 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, setting a new all-time record for the country. The number is some 3,000 higher than observed during France’s worst days in the first wave. The nation’s cumulative tally has surpassed 415,000 cases, with over 31,000 people succumbing to the disease to date.

Globally, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is hovering just below the 30 million mark, with the US, India and Brazil accounting for over half, the latest figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University show. More than 942,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began.

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