THE coming weeks will be critical for Europe in the battle against coronavirus with "no fast road back to normal", the World Health Organisation has said.
The warning comes as the number of people infected across the continent nears one million and countries around the world remain in lockdown.
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Speaking at a WHO briefing, regional director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge said: "The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region.
"The next few weeks will be critical for Europe.
"Make no mistake, despite the spring weather, we are in the middle of a storm."
"There is no fast road back to normal."
The total number of coronavirus cases across Europe continues to rise, but the number of new cases being confirmed each day has begun to plateau.
The majority of countries continue to advice residents only to leave home to obtain essential supplies and to practice social distancing.
Experts have said that, despite the progress being made under lockdowns, the continent will see infection rates rebound if measures are lifted too soon.
Efforts are underway around the world to develop and make available a vaccine, a process that normally takes around 10 years, within 18 months.
It is currently thought that lockdowns of some sort will have to remain in place until a vaccine is ready.
'WE NEED TO ADAPT'
Dr Kluge's comments echo the message currently being forwarded by the UK government.
Taking to twitter on Wednesday, health minister Nadine Dorries also responded to questions about whether the government had an exit strategy from the measures currently in place.
"There is only one way we can 'exit' full lockdown and that is when we have a vaccine," she said.
"Until then, we need to find ways we can adapt society and strike a balance between the health of the nation and our economy."
Speaking to Sky News about the comments today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The idea that we'll immediately just switch off all of the measures and return to things exactly as they were, that is not likely in the short-term."
"The point that Nadine was making is that we will not be returning straight back exactly how things were before.
"This will take time."
The coronavirus has infected over 2.1 million people and killed at least 136,000 globally since breaking out in December.
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