"Today every single country in Europe and Central Asia is facing a real threat of COVID-19 resurgence or already fighting it," WHO-Europe Director Hans Kluge warned.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that insufficient vaccine coverage and relaxation of epidemiological restrictions is prompting an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Europe.
"Today every single country in Europe and Central Asia is facing a real threat of COVID-19 resurgence or already fighting it… Europe is again at the epicenter of the pandemic, where we were a year ago. The difference today is that we know more and can do more," WHO-Europe Director Hans Kluge said and recommended the implementation of stricter epidemiological measures to prevent half a million people from dying until February 2022.
In the past week, 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia registered almost 1.8 million new COVID-19 cases and 24,000 related deaths. These figures were the consequence of a 55 percent increase in transmissions in the last month. Although the outbreak affects all age groups, it is more worrying the "rapid" increase in the elderly, since 75 percent of deaths occur in people over 65 years. So far, only 8 European nations have managed to vaccinate over 70 percent of their population. In the rest of the countries, however, complete immunization does not reach 10 percent of the population.
"We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19 to preventing them from happening in the first place," Kluge said, insisting on the importance of increasing vaccination coverage in priority groups and fostering global solidarity to share doses between countries.
To face the trend of increasing infections in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte indicated that face mask use will now apply to all publicly accessible indoor spaces, including libraries, town halls, supermarkets, shops, train stations and parts of hospitals, and universities.
In this European country, the requirement of a "corona pass", which has been mandatory for access to restaurants, cafes, theaters and stadiums, will be extended to museums, zoos, amusement parks, gyms, swimming pools, terraces and sports events outside and indoors. The "corona pass" can be a negative COVID-19 test result, a proof of vaccination or a proof of recovery.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced the start of booster vaccination in December for all people aged 80 and older. A booster shot will also be offered to all adult residents over the age of 18 who live in a care institution with their own medical service.