More than one million people in Europe have now died of coronavirus, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A top official from the WHO said the situation remains “serious” across the continent, with around 1.6 million new cases reported each week.
Several countries in Europe has been experiencing a third wave of the virus in recent weeks.
Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said the continent was seeing the equivalent of 160 new infections per minute.
Speaking to reporters on a visit to Greece, Dr Kluge said there were “early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries” and cited “declining incidence” among the oldest people.
He said the proportion of deaths among people over 80, who have been prioritised for vaccines, had dropped to nearly 30 per cent – the lowest level in the pandemic.
Addressing recent concerns over vaccine safety, Dr Kluge said the risk of blood clots was far higher for infected people than those who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Let there be no doubt about it, the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in reducing Covid-19 hospitalisation and preventing deaths,” he said, adding that the WHO recommends its use for all eligible adults.
Dr Kluge’s announcement came as France’s coronavirus death toll neared 100,000, a figure it is expected to pass on Thursday.
France will be the eighth country in the world to pass the grim milestone, and the third in Europe after Italy and the UK.
By Wednesday evening, a total of 99,777 people had died after contracting Covid in France.
In recent days, French health authorities have reported about 300 new deaths a day and the total number of patients in intensive care stands around 5,900.
Experts say the 100,000 death toll is an underestimate, by at least several thousand.
Analysis of death certificates shows that some Covid-19 cases are not reported when people die at home or in places such as psychiatric units and chronic care facilities, they have said.
Nearly three million deaths have been linked to Covid-19 worldwide, with the Americas hardest hit, followed by Europe, according to data from John Hopkins University.
The United States, Brazil and Mexico have reported the highest number of deaths, collectively at more than 1.1 million.
Additional reporting by agencies