Europe health official says 'encouraging signs' in coronavirus outbreak despite Spain death toll passing 4,000

Health officials say they are "starting to see some encouraging signs" in Europe's fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization's (WHO) regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, pointed to a "slightly lower rate of increase" in Italy in recent days.

Dr Kluge admitted, however, that the "situation remains very serious" as countries across Europe try to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The comment came as Spain saw a surge in virus-related deaths with more than 600 people dying in just 24 hours across the country.

The number of people in Spain to have died after testing positive for the virus has now risen to at least 4,089, more than the number killed by the virus in China, the original epicentre of the disease.

In a WHO update on the pandemic in Europe, Dr Kluge said the rate of increase in Covid-19 cases had been "particularly marked" in Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland.

The health official said - out of the number of cases globally - coronavirus cases in Europe accounted for roughly six out of 10.

While seven out of every 10 virus-related death globally was reported in Europe.

A patient, center, is transferred to a medicalised hotel during the COVID-19 outbreak in Madrid. Credit: AP

Dr Kluge said - despite the decrease in the rate of infections in Italy - the country had seen a number of healthcare workers test positive for Covid-19.

"From available reports we also know that one out of 10 infections are in healthcare workers and many more are in quaratine itself affecting the ability of our health services to respond.

He said: "This is particularly concerning to all of us."

Dr Kluge reported that in Italy approximately 6,200 healthcare workers had tested positive for Covid-19.

Italian military trucks moving coffins leave the cemetery of Bergamo, one of the areas worst hit by the coronavirus. Credit: AP

The WHO official added, however, that the coronavirus outbreak in Italy had shown "some encouraging signs" as infection rates slowed.

He said "it is still too early to say that the pandemic is peaking" but added: "We will be able to determine the degree to which the measures put in place in many countries are having an impact."

As of Thursday, Europe has reported more than 220,000 coronavirus cases - and 11,987 virus-related deaths.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know: