WHO issues COVID-19 warning to Europe before summer travels

The World Health Organization urged Europeans on Thursday to travel responsibly during the summer vacation season, warning that the continent was “nowhere near out of danger” in the fight against COVID-19, despite a steady decline in infection rates in recent weeks.

“In view of increasing social gatherings, greater mobility of the population and major festivals and sports tournaments taking place in the coming days and weeks, WHO Europe calls for caution,” said WHO European chief Hans Kluge in a press conference.

“If you choose to travel, do so responsibly. Be aware of the risks. Use common sense and don’t jeopardize hard-earned profits,” said Kluge.

In the past two months, new COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospital admissions have all decreased, prompting 36 out of 53 countries in the region to ease restrictions.

World Health Organization Regional Director Hans Kluge attends a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Moscow, Russia, on September 23, 2020. Sputnik / Alexander Astafyev / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

The number of reported COVID-19 infections last week was 368,000, a fifth of the weekly cases reported during a peak in April this year, Kluge said.

“We should all recognize the progress made in most of the countries in the region, we must also recognize that we are in no way out of danger,” he added.

Kluge said the so-called Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is worrying. This variant, he said, “shows increased transmissibility and some immune defense will prevail in the region, while many of the vulnerable populations over the age of 60 remain unprotected.”

Countries should learn from the resurgence of cases seen last summer, even as vaccinations roll out across the region.

With only 30% in the region receiving their first dose of vaccine, that wouldn’t be enough to prevent another wave of the virus, he said.

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