Public/Global Health

Top WHO official says Europe entering ‘plausible endgame’ to pandemic

The director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe office said on Thursday that the region is entering a “plausible endgame” as COVID-19 deaths start to slow down.

Hans Kluge said during a news briefing that European countries have a “singular opportunity” to take control of COVID-19 transmission because of three factors: high levels of immunization from the vaccines and natural infection, the virus’s tendency to spread less in warmer weather and the lower severity of the omicron variant, according to The Associated Press.

“This period of higher protection should be seen as a cease-fire that could bring us enduring peace,” Kluge added at the briefing. 

Kluge said health authorities should be able to control any new variant that may emerge, noting that spring “leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquility and a much higher level of population defense against any resurgence in transmission,” the AP reported.

However, Kluge urged everyone in the region to get vaccinated and called for “a drastic and uncompromising increase in vaccine-sharing across borders.”

Countries in Europe, including Denmark, Norway and Britain, have slowly been lifting coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks, with Sweden being the latest, according to the AP. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Thursday, however, that the world still has a long way to go to end the pandemic. He said that countries, even those with high vaccination rates, should not give in to political pressure and remove all the restrictions at once.

“We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines — and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity — preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” Tedros said at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters, according to the AP. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Tags COVID-19 covid-19 restrictions Vaccines

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