Nov 5 (The Guardian) – Uneven vaccine coverage and a relaxation of preventive measures have brought Europe to a “critical point” in the pandemic, the World Health Organization has said, with cases again at near-record levels and 500,000 more deaths forecast by February.
Hans Kluge, the WHO’s Europe director, said all 53 countries in the region were facing “a real threat of Covid-19 resurgence or already fighting it” and urged governments to reimpose or continue with social and public health measures.We are, once again, at the epicentre,” he said. “With a widespread resurgence of the virus, I am asking every health authority to carefully reconsider easing or lifting measures at this moment.” He said that even in countries with high vaccination rates, immunisation could only do so much.
“The message has always been: do it all,” Kluge said. “Vaccines are doing what was promised: preventing severe forms of the disease and especially mortality … But they are our most powerful asset only if used alongside public health and social measures.”
Catherine Smallwood, WHO Europe’s senior emergency officer, said countries that had mostly lifted preventive measures had experienced a surge in infections.
Vaccinations meant they had not seen “the same rates of hospitalisation or mortality we would have otherwise expected”, she said. “However, the more cases you have in crude terms, the more people will end up in hospital, and the more people will in the end go on to die. So there’s a very simple explanation for what’s going on.
“We have many susceptible individuals, including in high-vaccinated countries, and this is leading to unpredictable explosive outbreaks of Covid-19. And that’s not where we want to be right now.”