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COVID-19: Vaccines donated next year, ‘too late for those who are dying today’

That was one of the main messages relayed to reporters on Friday by World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said if richer countries and pharmaceutical companies wait to donate and produce more shots until next year, that will be “too late for those who are dying today.”

Lauding Guinea’s expected announcement on Saturday that its latest Ebola virus disease outbreak has been curbed after just four months, he said it showed what could be done on a much larger scale, with the coronavirus.

Global vaccine failure

“And yet even after 18 months, the ineffective use of public health and social measures, increased social mixing and vaccine inequity, continue to give COVID-19 an opportunity to mutate, spread and kill”, said Tedros. “The global failure to share vaccines equitably is fuelling a two-track pandemic that is now taking its toll on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Every region has countries that are now facing a steep increase in cases and deaths, he noted, adding that Latin American nations are in dire straits, with cases in Africa, increasing by 52% in just the past week.

“And we expect things to only get worse. Less than one per cent of Africa’s population has been vaccinated. Vaccines donated next year will be far too late for those who are dying today, or being infected today, or at risk today.”

Firm targets

WHO’s global targets are to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, at least 40 per cent by the end of 2021, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

“These are the critical milestones we must reach together to end the pandemic” said Tedros, comparing the current 20 per cent fully vaccinated rate in more than half of richer nations, with the chilling statistic that the same can be said of only three lower and middle-income countries. 

“We very much appreciate the vaccine donations announced by the G7 and others. And we thank those countries including the United States that have committed to sharing doses in June and July. We urge others to follow suit. We need vaccines to be donated now to save lives”, Tedros added.

One in every 100 dies by their own hand, each suicide ‘a tragedy’ – WHO

Based on its estimates that more than 700,000 people, or one-in-100, died by suicide in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced new LIVE LIFE guidelines to help countries reduce that rate by a third, no later than 2030.

“We cannot – and must not – ignore suicide”, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

COVID pressure

From job loss to financial stress and social isolation, the many risk factors triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic make suicide prevention “even more important now”, said the top WHO official.

The WHO guidance “provides a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts”, he added.

Suicide breakdown

Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence, according to the study: Suicide worldwide in 2019.

While rates varied between countries, regions and gender, the analysis shows that more than twice as many men kill themselves, than women.

Those rates are generally greater in high-income countries, while the highest suicide rates for women were found in lower middle-income countries.

Per 100,000 people, the 2019 global average of suicide rates stood at 9.0, while that number jumped to 11.2 in the WHO Africa region; 10.5 in Europe; and 10.2 in Southeast Asia. At 6.4, the Eastern Mediterranean region had the lowest rate.

“Each one is a tragedy”, said the WHO chief.

While the report showed a global suicide drop of 36 per cent between 2000 and 2019, the Americas Region witnessed a 17 per cent surge.

WHO said, “a significant acceleration” in suicide reduction is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target by 2030.

Interventions

WHO’s guidance to suicide prevention, zeros in on four strategies: limiting access to the means of suicide; educating the media on responsible suicide reporting; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of those with suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

The guidance highlights that in the social media age, media reports can prompt copycat suicides, especially when surrounding a celebrity. It calls for suicide coverage to be counteracted with articles highlighting successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase awareness and remove harmful content.

Since half of all mental health conditions appear before children reach 14, adolescence is a critical period, according to WHO, which encourages anti-bullying programmes, support services and clear protocols for people working in schools when suicide risk is identified.

Prevent heartbreak

A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for a future suicide, said the UN health agency.

Healthcare workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up and crisis services should also be available to individuals in acute distress, according to the guidance.

“A comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all Governments”, said Alexandra Fleischmann, WHO suicide prevention expert, adding that “LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind”. 

Five polio vaccination workers shot dead in Afghanistan; UN condemns ‘brutal’ killings

The UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, said the deaths and injuries occurred during five separate attacks on health workers – the latest in a recent spate which saw three health workers killed in March during the national polio vaccination effort in Nangahar.

Earlier this month, humanitarian workers with the Halo Trust demining group, came under attack in northern Afghanistan,  where extremists from an ISIL affiliate killed ten and wounded more than a dozen, in what the UN Security Council described as an “atrocious and cowardly targeted attack”.

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, said that he was “appalled by the brutality of these killings” on Tuesday, adding that “the senseless violence must stop”, urging Afghan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

He said the national campaign which only began on Monday, aimed at reaching nearly 10 million under-fives, had been suspended in the eastern region. “Polio immunization campaigns are a vital an effective way to reach millions of children…Depriving children from an assurance of a healthy life, is inhumane.”

An attack on children

“The UN strongly condemns all attacks on health workers anywhere. The delivery of healthcare is impartial, and any attack against health workers and those who work to defend them, is an attack on the children, whose very lives they are trying to protect”, he added.

The UN extended deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives, wishing the injured a full recovery.

Tedros ‘deeply saddened’

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the attacks, adding that “access to essential health service and immunization campaigns should be unimpeded so that communities can be protected.”

According to news reports, Afghanistan reported 56 new cases of polio last year. But officials have reported that only one wild polio virus case has been detected in the country since October last year.

‘Digital dumpsites’ study highlights growing threat to children: UN health agency  

In a statement coinciding with the launch, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the health threat was growing, in line with the “mounting ‘tsunami of e-waste’”. 

“In the same way the world has rallied to protect the seas and their ecosystems from plastic and microplastic pollution, we need to rally to protect our most valuable resource –the health of our children – from the growing threat of e-waste”, he added. 

A growing pile 

Discarded electronic devices, or e-waste, has become the fastest growing domestic waste category in the world, according to the UN health agency.  

The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP) said that of the 53.6 million tonnes produced worldwide in 2019, only 17.4 per cent was recorded as collected and appropriately recycled.  

While the fate of the remaining e-waste is unknown, it is unlikely to have been managed and recycled in an environmentally-sound manner.  

Hazards on the heap 

While some e-waste ends up in landfills, significant amounts are often illegally shipped to low and middle-income countries where informal workers, including children and adolescents, pick through, dismantle, or use acid baths to extract valuable metals and materials from the discarded items. 

WHO said that an estimated 12.9 million women who work in the informal waste sector are potentially exposing themselves and their unborn children to toxic residue. 

Additionally, more than 18 million youngsters globally – and some as young as five – are said to be “actively engaged” in the wider industrial sector, of which e-waste processing is a small part.  

‘Devastating’ impact 

Informal methods of removing materials from e-waste have been linked to a range of health effects, especially in children, WHO said.  

Recycling e-waste particularly impacts those in vital stages of physical and neurological development, with children, adolescents and pregnant women most vulnerable. 

Children are more susceptible to the toxic chemicals because they absorb pollutants relative to their size and, with not-fully-developed organs, are less able than adults to eradicate harmful substances. 

“Improper e-waste management is…a rising issue that many countries do not recognize yet as a health problem”, said WHO lead author, Marie-Noel Brune Drisse, warning that if action is not taken now, “its impacts will have a devastating health effect on children and lay a heavy burden on the health sector in the years to come”.  

Improper e-waste management…a rising issue that many countries do not recognize yet as a health problem — WHO

Call to action  

The Children and Digital Dumpsites report delves into the multiple dimensions of the problem, to practical action that the health sector and others concerned, can take to confront the insidious health risk.  

It calls for binding action by exporters, importers and governments to ensure environmentally sound disposal of e-waste and the health and safety of workers and communities. 

The health sector is also being asked to reduce adverse effects from e-waste by building up capacity to diagnose, monitor and prevent toxic exposure, and to advocate for better data and health research on risks faced by informal e-waste workers. 

“Children and adolescents have the right to grow and learn in a healthy environment, and exposure to electrical and electronic waste and its many toxic components unquestionably impacts that right”, said Maria Neira, WHO Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.  

“The health sector can play a role by providing leadership and advocacy, conducting research, influencing policy-makers, engaging communities, and reaching out to other sectors to demand that health concerns be made central to e-waste policies.”

Source: WHO
E-waste toxicants.

 

COVID-19 cases drop for seventh week, but deaths fall less slowly: WHO

However, while weekly cases are at their lowest since February, “deaths are not falling as quickly”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told journalists in Geneva. 

“The number of deaths reported last week was similar to the previous week, and the global decline masks a worrying increase in cases and deaths in many countries”, he explained. 

Africa ‘especially concerning’ 

With the least access to vaccines, diagnostics and oxygen supplies for the critically ill, a steep increase in Africa is “especially concerning”, said the WHO chief. 

A recent Lancet medical journal study showed that despite having fewer reported cases than most other regions, the continent has the highest mortality rate among critically ill COVID-19 patients. 

And evidence suggests new variants have substantially increased transmission globally. 

“That means the risks have increased for people who are not protected, which is most of the world’s population”, he stated. 

 Leading nations must step up 

Currently, the virus is moving faster than global vaccine distributions, according to WHO. 

“At the G7 Summit on Saturday, I said that to end the pandemic, our shared goal must be to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the world’s population by the time the G7 meets again in Germany next year”, Tedros asserted. 

He said the G7 intergovernmental group and G20 leading industrialized nations had the capacity to provide the 11 billion doses needed, and should “make this happen”. 

Tedros also welcomed the G7’s support for WHO, the ACT Accelerator and a proposed treaty on pandemic preparedness, along with their announcement of 870 million vaccine doses, for less well-off nations, primarily through the UN-backed COVAX equitable shots initiative. 

While “a big help…we need more, and we need them faster”, the UN official said, pointing out that more than 10 thousand lives are being lost every day, adding that “during this press conference alone, more than 420 people will die.” 

Vaccine urgency 

Communities need vaccines “now, not next year”, the WHO chief said. 

There are enough vaccine doses to drive down transmission and save lives globally, “if they are used in the right places, for the right people”, he stated, prioritizing health workers and those most at risk. 

While high vaccination rates in G7 countries have helped bring COVID cases and deaths to near-record lows, most States still rely solely on public health and social measures to keep COVID-19 at bay. 

However new, more transmissible variants mean more stringent measures in low vaccination areas. 

While vaccines have a clear and measurable impact, assessing public health and social measures is tougher as countries use a range of different methods. 

“Disentangling the precise impact of each individual measure can be challenging”, said the WHO chief. 

Moreover effectiveness hinges on the population’s level of adherence and Government’s commitment of support. 

“What matters is not just the measure itself, but how and when it is implemented”, he added. 

© UNICEF/Milequem Diarassouba
A health worker in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, becomes one of the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the global rollout of COVAX in Africa.

Prioritize benefits 

All countries should aim to implement measures to maximize the public health benefit, while minimizing social impact, according to the WHO chief. 

To improve evidence-based effectiveness of public health and social measures, he explained that WHO is collecting data globally on which methods are used and the level at which they are applied. 

“We’re also working with several countries and modelling groups to assess the impact of public health and social measures on transmission…[and] established a new WHO working group…to study the impact of public health and social measures during COVID-19 and other health emergencies”, said Tedros. 

Gift of life: Blood 

Also marking World Blood Donor Day, the UN official noted that throughout the pandemic, donors the world over have given blood “and the gift of life”, to others. 

This year highlights the role of youth in supporting safe and sufficient blood supplies now and in the future with the message to “give blood and keep the world beating”.

Landmark G7 agreement pledges 870 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, half by end-2021 

“Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us — children included, and commitments announced by G7 members…are an important step in this direction”, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, said in a statement. 

Building on the momentum of the G20 Global Health Summit and the Gavi COVAX AMC Summit, in a landmark agreement at the G7 Summit – underway in Cornwall, United Kingdom – the global leaders made the pledge, with the aim of delivering at least half by the end of 2021  

Secretary-General António Guterres had previously said that despite “unequal and very unfair” access to inoculations, “it is in the interest of everybody that everybody gets vaccinated sooner rather than later”.  

The G-7 leaders also reaffirmed their support for the UN-led equitable vaccine distribution initiative COVAX, calling it “the primary route for providing vaccines to the poorest countries”. 

Prompt action, please 

The COVAX alliance, meanwhile, welcomed the G7’s commitment, including their continued support for exporting in significant proportions and for promoting voluntary licensing and not-for-profit global production. 

The partners look forward to “seeing doses flowing to countries” as soon as possible.  

COVAX will work with the G7 and other countries that have stepped up to share doses as rapidly and equitably as possible to help address short-term supply constraints currently impacting the global response to COVID-19 and minimize the prospect of future deadly variants. 

“We have reached a grim milestone in this pandemic: There are already more dead from COVID-19 in 2021 than in all of last year”, lamented Ms. Fore. “Without urgent action, this devastation will continue”. 

Aligning interests 

Noting the need for a “ramp up”, in both the amount and pace of supply, the top UNICEF official attested that when it comes to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, “our best interests and our best natures align. This crisis will not be over until it is over for everyone.” 

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, underscored that many countries are facing a surge in cases, without vaccines.  

“We are in the race of our lives, but it’s not a fair race, and most countries have barely left the starting line”, he said.  

While grateful for the generous announcements of vaccine donations, he stressed, that “we need more, and we need them faster”. 

Time of the essence 

As many high-income countries begin to contemplate post-vaccination life, the future in low-income countries appears quite bleak.  

“We are particularly worried about the surges in South America, Asia and Africa”, said the UNICEF chief. 

Moreover, as the pandemic rages, the virus mutates and produces new variants that could potentially threaten the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.  

“Donating doses now is smart policy that speaks to our collective best interests”, she continued, adding that in addition to vaccine pledges, “distribution and readiness need clear timelines” as to when they will be available, particularly in countries with poor health infrastructure. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of children, affecting every aspect of their lives: their health, education, protection and future prosperity. Now, more than ever, what we do today will have significant and lasting impact on our collective tomorrows. There is no time to waste”, she concluded. 

Explanations 

The G7 is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, UK and United States. 

COVAX was set up by WHO, GAVI the vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). It is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to equitably provide COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to all people globally, regardless of their wealth. 

Counting down to Peace Day, UN chief urges: Stand up against hatred and care for planet 

As we strive to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic and reimagine a better future for people and planet, Secretary-General António Guterres introduced this year’s theme: “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.” 

Regardless of ethnicity, location or religion, the virus attacks everyone.  

Confronting this common enemy, we must remember that we are not each other’s enemy.  

To be able to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, we must make peace with one another. 

“Peace is the foundation of that recovery. The global vaccination effort cannot advance amidst armed conflict”, he said in his countdown message. 

Moving forward 

Moreover, the top UN official underscored that we cannot build a sustainable, resilient and peaceful world while we are “at war with nature”.  

“The world cannot go back to what it was”, he stressed. 

The Secretary-General upheld that COVID recovery efforts offer humanity an opportunity to transform its relationship with the environment and the entire planet.  

“As we count down to the International Day of Peace, I call on people everywhere to be part of a transformation for peace, by standing up against hatred and discrimination, by caring for the planet, and by showing the global solidarity that is so vital at this time”, he concluded. 

Looking back 

The International Day of Peace was established by the UN General Assembly in 1981.  

Two decades later, in 2001, the Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. 

Guterres: Vaccines should be considered 'global public goods'

Speaking via videolink in London, Secretary-General António Guterres said there was no other way of defeating a virus that spreads across developing countries “like wildfire” and risks mutating, other than through equitable, mass vaccination, adding that shots need to be “available and affordable to all”. 

“That is not only a matter of fairness and justice but it’s also a question of efficiency”, he said, pointing out that mutations “abide by Darwin’s laws of evolution” – meaning that the worst viruses tend to survive, multiply and eventually disable the vaccines.  

Vaccination programmes so far, have been “unequal and very unfair”, the UN chief said.  

Reasons for hope 

Mr. Guterres said he was encouraged by the announcement made ahead of the G7, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) together with the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), regarding a $50 billion programme to support vaccination delivery in developing countries.  

He was also heartened by the recent announcements of the United States and United Kingdom to donate more than half a billion doses to nations least able to afford them.   

Mr. Guterres welcomed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that he expects the G7 to provide a billion pledged doses by the end of the summit.   

At war with the virus 

“We are at war” with the coronavirus, he said, that continues to cause “tremendous suffering” and destroy the global economy. 

To defeat the virus, we must “boost our weapons”, he added, calling for a “global vaccination plan”. 

The Secretary-General spoke of his proposal for vaccine-producing countries to come together in an emergency task force supported by WHO, the vaccine alliance GAVI and international financial institutions to define and implement a plan. 

“We need really those who have the power…to organize an effective response to COVID and the only way to be effective…is guaranteeing that everybody will be vaccinated sooner rather than later”, he said.  

G7’s climate action 

The UN chief said climate action was his other priority for the first in-person G7 meeting since the pandemic began, as the world’s average temperature continues to rise, almost to the point where the international scientific community says is “the limit” to avoid “catastrophic developments”.  

“To a certain extent, we are on the verge of the abyss and…we need to make sure that the next step is in the right direction”, he said calling on the G7 to create a global net zero coalition for 2050; to support adaptation for the resilience of populations and societies; and to finance developing countries so they may target mitigation and address the climate change impacts already upon them.  

Paving the way forward 

In closing, the Secretary-General expressed hope that the G7 meeting “will help pave the way for new and important decisions in the future”. 

“I think it is absolutely essential to guarantee that” through the COP 26 [UN climate conference] in Glasgow, he said, warning that it may prove to be “the last opportunity” to make the right decisions.

New WHO guidance aims to stamp out rights violations in mental health services

Globally, mental health care mainly continues to be provided in psychiatric hospitals, and rights abuses and coercive practices remain all too common, according to the UN agency. 

‘A more holistic approach’ 

The guidance recommends that mental health provision should be located in the community and include support for daily living, such as facilitating access to accommodation, as well as education and employment services. 

“This comprehensive new guidance provides a strong argument for a much faster transition from mental health services that use coercion and focus almost exclusively on the use of medication to manage symptoms of mental health conditions, to a more holistic approach that takes into account the specific circumstances and wishes of the individual and offers a variety of approaches for treatment and support,” said Dr. Michelle Funk of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, who led the development of the guidance. 

Severe abuses continue 

WHO estimated that governments currently spend less than two per cent of their overall health budgets on mental health.  This expenditure is mainly allocated to psychiatric hospitals, except in high-income countries where the figure is around 43 per cent. 

The guidance promotes services that are person-centred and grounded in a human rights-based approach, as recommended under WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2020-2030, endorsed last month. 

WHO pointed out that although countries have increasingly sought to reform their laws, policies and services regarding mental health care, following adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, few have made progress in meeting the changes required by international human rights standards. 

Severe human rights abuses and coercive practices are still far too common across countries, the agency said. Examples include forced admission and forced treatment, as well as manual, physical and chemical restraint, unsanitary living conditions, and physical and verbal abuse. 

Good practices showcased 

The new guidance outlines what is required in areas such as mental health law, service delivery, financing and workforce development so that mental health services comply with the disability rights treaty. 

It contains examples of community-based mental health services from countries such as Brazil, India, Kenya, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom which have demonstrated good practices, for example in non-coercion, community inclusion and respecting people’s right to make decisions about their treatment and life. 

The services highlighted include crisis support, mental health services provided within general hospitals, outreach services, supported living approaches and support provided by peer groups.  Cost comparisons indicate that they provide good outcomes and are preferred by users.  They also can be provided at comparable cost to mainstream health services. 

“Transformation of mental health service provision must, however, be accompanied by significant changes in the social sector”, said Gerard Quinn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  

“Until that happens, the discrimination that prevents people with mental health conditions from leading full and productive lives will continue.”

Nine in 10 African nations set to miss urgent COVID vaccination goal 

At 32 million doses, Africa accounts for less than one per cent of the more than 2.1 billion doses administered globally. Just two per cent of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received one dose, and only 9.4 million Africans are fully vaccinated. 

‘Do or die’ for doses 

“It’s do or die on dose sharing for Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. 

The WHO’s reminder that 225 million doses of vaccine are needed urgently on the continent comes as coronavirus infections increased there for the third consecutive week. 

Africa’s 54 countries have registered nearly five million COVID-19 infections to date and numbers increased by nearly 20 per cent – to more than 88 000 – in the week ending 6 June.  

Third wave looms 

“As we close in on five million cases and a third wave in Africa looms, many of our most vulnerable people remain dangerously exposed to COVID-19”, warned Dr Moeti. 

“Vaccines have been proven to prevent cases and deaths, so countries that can, must urgently share COVID-19 vaccines.”  

According to WHO’s latest situation update, the pandemic “is trending upwards in 10 African countries”. Four nations have seen a 30 per cent increase in cases in the past seven days, compared with the previous week.  

Most of the new cases were in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia and over half were in nine southern African countries. 

Vaccines have become “increasingly scarce”, the UN health agency said, adding that at the current rate of delivery, only seven African nations will meet the goal of immunizing one in 10 people by September. 

European contrast 

The development came as the WHO announced on Thursday that for the first time in Europe since last August, deaths from COVID-19 had fallen below 10,000 in a week. 

In a regular update, the UN health agency noted that cases, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased in the region for two consecutive months.  

A total of 368,000 new cases were reported in the last seven days, which is a fifth of the weekly cases reported during Europe’s recent peak in April this year, said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. 

He noted that the European Region had seen 55 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1.2 million deaths, which is around a third of the global caseload. 

Vaccine roll-out 

More than 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the last six months, Dr Kluge noted, meaning that 30 per cent of Europeans have received at least one vaccine dose and 17 per cent have been fully immunised.  

“Vaccination coverage is far from sufficient to protect the (European) region from a resurgence”, the WHO official explained. “The distance to go before reaching at least 80 per cent coverage of the adult population, is still considerable.”  

 

Public health measures and vaccination…is the way out of this pandemic — Dr. Kluge

People over 70 were 800 times more at risk of severe disease or death from the coronavirus, he continued, insisting that it was an “urgent priority” to continue to protect the elderly, people with comorbidities and frontline workers who “remain unprotected” in a number of European countries. 

“With increasing social gatherings, greater population mobility, and large festivals and sports tournaments taking place in the coming days and weeks, WHO-Europe calls for caution”, the WHO official added.  

Widespread community transmission continues, Dr. Kluge continued, adding that the new Delta coronavirus variant which shows increased transmissibility “is poised to take hold”, while many vulnerable people over 60 remain unprotected. 

Highlighting the parallels with last summer when infections rose in younger people before moving into older age groups, the WHO official urged European countries to avoid “a devastating resurgence, lockdowns and loss of life” during the warmer months.  

Public health measures 

“A combination of public health measures and vaccination – not one or the other – is the way out of this pandemic,” Dr Kluge insisted. 

To encourage people to protect themselves and others from coronavirus, WHO-Europe and UNICEF Europe and Central Asia have launched a joint campaign with some key do’s and don’ts. 

“If you choose to travel, do it responsibly,” Dr. Kluge said. “Be conscious of the risks. Apply common sense and don’t jeopardize hard-earned gains. Remember: wash your hands frequently, keep a distance, choose open settings and wear a mask. Avoid the three Cs; settings that are ‘closed’, ‘confined’ or ‘crowded’, will put you at higher risk.”

IMF/Jeff Moore
Members of the public browse a book stall in London after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

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