WHO warns against virus complacency | Daily News

WHO warns against virus complacency

WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge
WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge

DENMARK: The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Europe against rash reopenings on Thursday despite a fall in new Covid-19 cases and Germany announced a partial border closure, reminders of the long battle ahead before vaccines can tame the pandemic.

Mass COVID-19 vaccination programmes are being ramped up in many countries in the race against more contagious variants, and governments are urging populations to continue to cope with closures as the inoculation campaigns move ahead.

But while new cases and deaths have come down in some places, a WHO official said it was by no means time to ease up.

"The decline in cases conceals increasing numbers of outbreaks and community spread involving variants of concern," said WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge.

"At this point, the overwhelming majority of European countries remain vulnerable," he added, pointing out the "thin line between the hope of a vaccine and a false sense of security".

More than a million cases are registered every week across the 53 member states in the UN agency's European region, which includes several in Central Asia.

But the number of reported cases has been falling over the past four weeks and deaths have also been declining over the past two weeks.

Worldwide deaths have meanwhile climbed to nearly 2.4 million, with the United States the hardest-hit, while the Middle East surpassed 100,000 fatalities on Thursday.

Germany said on Thursday it will ban travel from Czech border regions as well as Austria's Tyrol due to concern over new variants.

The AstraZeneca shot forms the bulk of doses being rolled out around the world -- especially in poorer countries -- under the Covax programme.

WHO expert Alejandro Cravioti said the organisation was awaiting more specific data on the vaccine's efficacy in over-65s, but it "would not be appropriate" to wait with "thousands of people dying". WHO said deaths from COVID-19 in Africa surged by 40 percent over the last month, as the continent's toll approaches 100,000.

Two African nations announced deliveries of China's Sinopharm vaccine, including Equatorial Guinea, which said Beijing had donated 100,000 doses.

Zimbabwe will receive 800,000 doses by the start of March, with China donating a quarter and the government paying for the rest. Instagram blocked Robert F. Kennedy Jr -- nephew of assassinated US president John F Kennedy -- for spreading misinformation about the virus and vaccines. - AFP