COPENHAGEN, June 10 (Xinhua) — With increasing social gatherings, greater population mobility, and the juggernauts of large festivals and sports tournaments poised to take place in the coming days and weeks, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge advised “caution” during a press conference here Thursday.
Noting that 36 out of 53 countries in the region eased restrictions against COVID-19 this week following two consecutive months of decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Kluge expressed his concerns over a possible resurgence of COVID-19.
“Whilst we should all recognize the progress made across most countries in the Region, we must also acknowledge that we are by no means out of danger,” he said.
Acknowledging that last week’s number of 368,000 new cases were just “a fifth of the weekly cases reported during Europe’s recent peak in April this year” and that new deaths had dipped below 10,000 last week, Kluge reminded that “we have been here before.”
“Over the course of last summer, cases gradually rose in younger age groups, then moved into older age groups, contributing to a devastating resurgence, lockdowns and loss of life in the autumn and winter of 2020. Let’s not make that mistake again,” he warned.
The WHO official clarified by revealing that COVID-19 notification rates across the Region show that widespread community transmission continues, with the Delta variant (first identified in India) being of particular concern, as it showed “increased transmissibility and some immune escape” and was “poised to take hold over many among vulnerable populations above the age of 60 who still remain unprotected.”
To date, there have been 55 million confirmed cases and 1.2 million deaths in the WHO European Region, “that is 32 percent of cases reported globally, and 31 percent of all deaths,” according to Kluge.
In an effort to reinforce the message of caution, Kluge announced that WHO Europe, together with UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Europe and Central Asia, had launched a campaign Thursday “to encourage everyone to exercise caution, reduce risks and keep safe from COVID-19 while enjoying the summer.”
“Apply common sense and don’t jeopardize hard-earned gains. Avoid the three Cs- settings that are Closed, Confined or Crowded,” said Kluge repeating the campaign’s message.
On the question of vaccination coverage, Kluge said that the distance to go before reaching at least 80 percent of the adult population was “considerable.”
Meanwhile, Kluge called on the Region’s leadership to commit, above and beyond words, but through action, to Pan-European solidarity,” reiterating this was in hand with “equitable vaccine access” across the region because “keeping everyone safe is everyone’s responsibility.” Enditem