To combat a rise in COVID-19 infections caused by an Omicron branch and prevent stronger measures later in the year, a senior World Health Organization official warned on Tuesday that European nations must speed up vaccine adoption and reinstate mask-wearing as reported by Reuters.
WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge advised nations to act early to prevent taxing health systems in the fall and winter as the Omicron subvariant, BA.5, spreads quickly in an interview with Reuters.
Last week, approximately three million new COVID-19 infections were reported in Europe, making up roughly half of all new cases worldwide. In the same time frame, hospitalisation rates have risen, and every week, nearly 3,000 individuals pass away from the illness, according to a statement from Kluge.
He emphasised the need for “pandemic stabilisers” such as a second booster dose before the anticipated variant-specific vaccines in the autumn, as well as the encouragement of mask use and greater ventilation, saying that there is an increase in cases “amidst a society that is working almost as before.”
He continued, “I don’t think society is ready for ordered lockdowns,” adding that these stabilisers must be put in place to prevent the need for far tighter restrictions. Governments increased investment when the pandemic started in 2020 to help mitigate the effects of lockdowns on their economies and straining health systems, but did so at the expense of massive debts and are now hesitant to repeat similar policies.
The virus is sometimes questioned to be returned, according to Kluge. “It has never subsided. It remains in place. It is growing. It’s evolving. And regrettably, it continues to claim a great number of lives.”
After 2.5 years of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns and disruptions, nations are now also dealing with soaring inflation and growing food shortages, which is partly due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kluge said. However, governments still need to make more investments in healthcare.
And if governments don’t, well, society won’t be any better off in the long run, he continued.
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