The use of antibiotics declined in Europe in 2020, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The centre said the overall consumption of the drugs, which were used to treat bacterial infections, fell by more than 15 percent, the EU agency said in a statement on Thursday.

It said, one reason could be that fewer people went to the doctor because of the COVID-19 pandemic and so fewer antibiotics were prescribed, the ECDC said.

Another cause could be that there were fewer respiratory infections that were not triggered by the coronavirus – as a result of people wearing face coverings, keeping their hands cleaner and social-distancing.

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However, European health authorities warned that levels of antibiotic resistance remained high.

Therefore, it recommended further reducing any unnecessary use of these drugs.

She said,“Antimicrobial resistance is a silent pandemic that is happening here and now,’’ said Stella Kyriakides, EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

“Lives are lost because medicines no longer work and we need to step up global action, urgently.’’ (dpa/NAN)