Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
I have already subscribed | Do not show this message again
Your email has been successfully registered.
Europe, where for the first time in ten weeks coronavirus infection has risen again, may experience a new wave of COVID-19 this autumn if health measures and individual precautions are not maintained, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday.
The WHO considers that the three conditions necessary for a new wave are present: new variants (especially Delta), vaccination deficits and increasing social contact. "There will be a new wave in Europe unless we are disciplined, all the more so as there are fewer rules now, and that we all get vaccinated without hesitation when it is our turn," the head of WHO-Europe, Hans Kluge, told a press conference.
The 10% rise in cases recorded last week was expected because of the lifting of restrictions, but it should serve as a warning, said Kluge, who also spoke of "learning lessons" from last summer, when the second wave hit many countries harder than the first. "To put it simply: more contagion, more variants; less contagion, fewer variants," he stated.
The head of WHO-Europe Emergencies, Catherine Smallwood, said that the region is facing "a window of opportunity", because in many countries infection remains at low levels, although in a few there are record hospitalizations and deaths.
"Social measures should not be relaxed in a context of growing contagion. But if it is done, health measures should be strengthened," said Smallwood, who mentioned, among other things, more testing and contact tracing, and "vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate."
The average vaccine coverage (two doses) in the European region (which includes 53 countries, including Russia and some former Soviet republics) is only 24%, just half of the older population, and 40% of healthcare workers remain unprotected, the WHO said.
"With these figures, the pandemic is by no means over. And it would be a mistake for anyone, citizens and politicians alike, to assume that it is over," Kluge said, stressing that the European Union cannot feel "safe" as long as the countries around it are not.
There is scientific evidence that the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca preparations work against the Delta variant, although protection is reduced with only one dose. With two, however, it is "excellent," Smallwood explained.
The World Health Organization (WHO) called Thursday for better monitoring of Euro 2020 football matches as Covid cases rise again in Europe, fuelled by the deadly Delta variant that is racing around the globehttps://t.co/VpZ7akHeaM
During the hearing, held at the WHO-Europe headquarters in Copenhagen, the experts showed their "concern" about the growing contagion in countries hosting the European Football Championship and urged to assess the risks and to promote mitigation measures.
"We are concerned about large gatherings of people, especially in countries where new cases are rising. It is important to implement public health measures. Organizers and local authorities need to drive initiatives to reduce transmission," Kluge said.
Kluge stressed that it cannot be ruled out that such sporting events function as "super-contagion" events and recalled the importance of keeping one's distance, washing hands and wearing masks where necessary. "It is not only the matches themselves, but also other events related to the European Championship," Smallwood stressed.
The WHO expert defends that the main message is that health systems must be ready to respond to the sharp spikes in infection caused by the European Championship, which includes increased testing, screening and sequencing of tests, as well as isolation of those infected.
The WHO recalled, however, that the danger is not only the European Championship, but also other events that gather many people during the summer, such as music festivals. "The evolution of COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months, whether we will see a new wave or whether schools will be able to open their doors to our children, depends on our decisions and actions as individuals, communities and governments," Kluge said.