WHO warns European governments of Covid spike if curbs are eased prematurely

The World Health Organization has warned European governments that relaxing Covid restrictions too soon could cause cases to spiral again, potentially triggering a wave of new infections as seen in India.

Hans Kluge, the head of WHO’s Europe region, said relaxing protective measures when there were more contagious variants and vaccine coverage was still low could lead to “a perfect storm in any country … The situation in India can happen anywhere.”

Kluge spoke after numerous European leaders announced plans this week to begin gradually lifting lockdown restrictions in the run-up to summer, despite new daily infection numbers that often have only just started to flatten.

He said that while new cases in the region had fallen “significantly” last week for the first time in two months, infection rates across the region “remain extremely high”. Nearly half of all cases in the region since last January occurred in the first four months of this year, he said.

But Kluge said vaccinations were now advancing across the European region, with 16% of the population having had a first dose and 7% fully inoculated – meaning more people in Europe had been fully vaccinated than had been infected with the disease.

“Where vaccination rates in high-risk groups are highest, admissions to hospitals are decreasing and death rates are falling. Vaccines are saving lives,” Kluge said.

But it is a combination of vaccines and strong public health measures that offer us the clearest path back to normal.

Published at www.theguardian.com