Video source: YouTube, Guardian News
For the first time in two months, new COVID-19 cases declined significantly in Europe, but infection rates remain high, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despite the downward trend, WHO regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned Thursday that the threat posed by coronavirus “remains present.”
During an online press conference, “Here in the European region, it is 462 days since the first COVID-19 cases were reported. Based on numbers of confirmed cases, 5.5% of the entire European population have now had COVID-19, while 7% have completed a full vaccination series,” he said.
He noted that half of all Europe’s reported cases have occurred since January, as the continent has struggled against the rapid spread of the more infectious virus variant first identified in the UK.
Kluge also expressed his condolences and concern over India’s battle against a “horrific surge.”
In India, a second wave of COVID-19 that began in mid-March has overwhelmed the healthcare system and has led to a record number of infections. So far this month, there have been more than 3 million cases, a ninefold increase, and 17,000 virus-related fatalities.
“The virus still carries the potential to inflict devastating effects,” Kluge said. “I think it’s very important to realize the situation in India can happen anywhere.”
"When personal protective measures are being relaxed, when there are mass gatherings, when there are more contagious variants and the vaccination coverage is low, this can basically create a perfect storm in any country.”
Kluge said public health controls and individual actions, like mask wearing, would determine if cases would continue to fall in Europe. He also urged governments to continue vaccination programs, public engagement on vaccines and surveillance of the virus.
“Where vaccination rates in high-risk groups are highest, admissions to hospitals are decreasing and death rates are falling. Vaccines are saving lives, and they will change the course of this pandemic and eventually help end it,” Kluge stated.
“We also need to be conscious of the fact that vaccines alone, will not end the pandemic. Without informing and engaging communities, they remain exposed to the virus. Without surveillance, we can’t identify new variants. And without contact tracing, governments may need to reimpose restrictive measures,” Kluge said.
To date, some 215 million vaccinations have been administered in the region, which encompasses 53 countries, Kluge said.
CNBC noted that the speed of vaccination efforts differs throughout the European Union, with some countries rolling out programs quicker than others.
In the UK, lockdown measures are easing while the country continues its mass vaccination rollout. Almost 34 million adults have received a first dose of a vaccine and 14 million have had two doses, government data shows.
Over 135 million doses have been administered so far across 30 countries in the European Economic Area, which includes the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: Equities News