THE World Health Organisation (WHO) says that Europe must “do more” in the face of an “alarming situation” created by the circulation in the region of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus.
Speaking on Thursday, January 7, WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said: “Grassroots measures, which we are all aware of, must be intensified to lower transmission, alleviate our covid-19 services and save lives.”
In the face of the alarming situation the world currently faces, Kluge said: “Be it vaccine allocation and prioritisation, access to medical supplies & tests, public health measures & policies to control the pandemic, we have a responsibility to base decisions on the core values that are at the heart of humanity: solidarity, equity and social justice.”
According to Kluge, the WHO European Region saw over 26 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 580,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in 2020.
“In the 27 countries that participate in EuroMOMO’s all-cause excess mortality monitoring, close to 313,000 excess deaths were reported in 2020.
“This marks a 3-fold increase on excess deaths recorded in 2018, and close to a 5-fold increase on excess deaths in 2019.
He continued: “As of 6 January, among all countries and territories in Europe, almost half have a 7-day incidence of over 150 new cases per 100,000 population, and one quarter are seeing a greater than 10% increase in case incidence over the past 2-week period.”
Speaking about the new variant that was first detected in the UK, he said: “Like all viruses, as it has circulated, the COVID-19 virus has changed over time. I do understand the concern around the possible impact of the SARS CoV-2 Variant of Concern (VOC). 22 countries in the WHO European region have detected this new variant.
“This variant is ‘of concern’ as it has increased transmissibility. So far, we understand there is no significant change to the disease this variant produces, meaning the Covid-19 is not more, nor less, severe.
“The deployment of COVID-19 vaccine in few countries in the WHO European Region has set the ground of using “vaccine” as one of the tools to contain the ongoing pandemic. There have been reports of varied but promising roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine in the region,” he said about the vaccine rollouts across Europe.
“However, whilst I can reassure you that WHO and partners are making huge efforts to get the vaccines into every country, it needs every country capable of contributing, donating and supporting equitable access and deployment of the vaccines, to do so.
“I want to emphasise that vaccine roll-outs are essential, first and foremost, to reduce severe disease in vulnerable groups, release the pressure on our hospitals and avoid the risk of our health systems collapsing,” he concluded.
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