Covid remains threat to Europe, travel should be avoided, WHO warns

The Covid-19 vaccines used in Europe appear to protect against all new variants, but progress in the region remains ‘fragile’ and international travel should be avoided to prevent pockets of transmission from rapidly spreading into ‘dangerous resurgences’, said the World Health Organization.

Weekly official cases in Europe fell almost 60%, from 1.7 million in mid-April to nearly 685,000 last week, with deaths also falling, the regional director of the WHO, Hans Kluge. However, he added that incidence rates remained stubbornly high in eight countries.

“The pandemic is not yet over,” Kluge said. “Increased mobility and interactions can lead to more transmission. In the face of a continuing threat and new uncertainty, we must exercise caution and rethink or avoid international travel. “

EU leaders should “not make the same mistakes that were made around the same time last year that led to a resurgence of Covid-19 and saw health systems, communities and economies once again take the brunt of the storm. strength of the pandemic, ”he said.

Mr Kluge said that the B.1.617 variant first identified in India has been identified in at least 26 of the region’s 53 countries, with most cases being linked to international travel, but further transmission also occurs. .

“We’re still learning more about the new variant, but it is able to spread quickly and move the B.1.1.7 lineage. [first identified in the UK] which has now become the dominant lineage in Europe, ”he said.


Mr Kluge said the vaccines are effective against the new strain, with all variants that have emerged so far responding to “available and approved vaccines”. But since only 23 percent of people in Europe have received a dose of the vaccine and only 11 percent have had both, governments and citizens must continue to exercise caution.

“Neither testing nor receiving vaccines is a substitute for observing measures such as physical distancing and wearing masks in public spaces or healthcare facilities,” Kluge said. “Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot be blinded by that light. “

Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s European emergency officer, said it was unclear yet exactly how transmissible the Indian variant was.

“There are three different sublineages in this particular worrying variant, and one of them has been shown to at least be able to spread quite quickly in the presence of B.1.1.7,” she said. . “We have seen this in several parts of the UK, but also in other countries in the European region. “

The organization “was following him very closely,” she said. “We are learning from it. We are gathering as much information as possible in order to make more specific statements about its characteristics both in terms of transmissibility, but also in terms of capacity.

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