With winter weather just around the corner, the first hints of another wave of COVID-19 have emerged in Europe, according to data released by the World Health Organization this week.

Infections across Europe — the majority of them caused by omicron subvariants that dominated the summer months — have been steadily climbing in several nations, including in the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

According to WHO data released Wednesday, cases across the European Union spiked to 1.5 million last week, up 8% from the week prior. Hospitalizations are also up across the 27-nation bloc, with Italy reporting a 32% jump in admissions and a 21% increase in intensive care admissions for the week ending on Oct. 4.

Spike in COVID-19 cases across Europe could mean fast-spreading winter wave

People queue to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Armando Franca/AP)

Britain, meanwhile, reported a 45% increase in hospitalizations when compared with the week prior.

“This is to be expected as the weather gets colder and more time is spent together indoors,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said. “Most countries no longer have measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.”

While cases are still on the decline globally, officials warned the wave brewing in Europe could suggest the United States could be next.

Several computer models are still projecting that infection numbers will continue to drop through the end of the year, but researchers have emphasized there are many variables that could trigger another, fast-spreading wave in the United States. That includes hundreds of new forms of the omicron mutation currently being tracked by scientists as well as a decrease in surveillance and testing.

Ghebreyesus said such factors make “tracking this virus like chasing shadows.”

“So we continue to call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing, and to ensure that those most at risk are vaccinated,” he added.

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