The World Health Organization has said it is “very worried” about rising Covid-19 infection rates across Europe.
It comes as Austria is set to go into a full national lockdown from Monday with reports that nations such as Germany could follow.
Dr Hans Kluge, regional director of the World Health Organization, has warned that around 500,000 more deaths could be recorded by March if the continent fails to get a grip on the virus.
He said infection rates could surge further as the virus – especially the Delta variant - becomes more transmissible in the winter.
In an interview with the BBC, Dr Kluge recommended measures such as mandatory masks and called for increased vaccine
-19 has become once again the number one cause of mortality in our region”, he said, adding “we know what needs to be done” to combat the disease.
On Friday Austria became the first country in the world to make vaccinations a legal requirement as Covid
-19 cases continue to spiral.
Mr Kluge said compulsory vaccine
measures should only be used as a “last resort” but that it might be worth having a “legal and societal debate” about the issue.
He added that the Covid
pass is “not a restriction of liberty, rather it is a tool to keep our individual freedom”.
Slovakia announced a lockdown for the unvaccinated to begin on Monday, while the Czech Republic has said it will limit access to a variety of services in a bid to keep case numbers down.