BFF-38 Too early to ease virus curbs in Europe, says WHO

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HEALTH-VIRUS-EUROPE

Too early to ease virus curbs in Europe, says WHO

COPENHAGEN, Jan 28, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – The World Health Organization’s
European branch on Thursday said it is too early to ease virus restrictions
in Europe despite a drop in new cases in most countries.

Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said 30 of the WHO
European region’s 53 countries had “seen a significant decrease in 14-day
cumulative incidence.”

“Yet, transmission rates across Europe are still very high, impacting
health systems and straining services, making it too early to ease up,” Kluge
told an online press conference.

The regional director also noted that since only three percent of people
in the region had already had a confirmed infection, areas that had been “hit
badly once can be hit again.”

Kluge described the current situation as a “pandemic paradox”, noting that
while the rollout of vaccines offered “remarkable hope… newly emerging
variants of concern are presenting greater uncertainty and risk.”

In the WHO’s European Region, which includes Russia and several Central
Asian countries, 35 states have started vaccinations, according to the WHO.

As for the new variant first discovered in the UK, it has been confirmed
in 33 countries and the variant first identified in South Africa has been
reported in 16.

According to AFP’s own tally for Europe, which excludes some of the
Central Asian countries in the WHO European region, new cases totalled
1,421,692 in the last seven days, down about 10 percent compared with the
previous seven.

Days away from the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed cases of
Covid-19 in Europe, Kluge said “breaking transmission chains is a clear
priority.”

However he also stressed that the impact on mental health was now so
severe that poor mental health had become a “parallel pandemic”.

Citing figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Kluge
said half of people between 18 and 29, as well 20 percent of healthcare
workers, were suffering from “anxiety and depression”.

BSS/AFP/IJ/1818 hrs