WHO tells Europe to ‘act now’ as COVID-19 cases triple

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The European office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) says COVID-19 case counts have tripled across Europe in the last six weeks.

This, the organisation said, was hinting at a “huge challenge” for the continent’s healthcare system for the rest of the year.

“My message to governments and health authorities is to act now to prepare for the coming months,“ said Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe.

“If health authorities act now, they can help reduce the anticipated disruptions to society, including health worker absences and overburdened health systems, struggling businesses and travel chaos.”

Mr Kluge noted three million new cases reported last week, though he added that intensive care admissions remain relatively low.

But he said he is worried that as people return from summer vacations, schools reopen, and people start socialising indoors due to colder temperatures, case counts could spike higher.

He noted that the situation is being exacerbated by the prevalence of new strains of the Omicron variant, making reinfection more likely.

“Each new infection could lead to long COVID,’’ he said.

To prepare, he said, countries need to revive vaccination drives, support mask-wearing; strengthen laboratory capacities; prioritise contact-tracing; and bolster infection control practices in all health care facilities.

“Just because a mask isn’t mandated doesn’t mean it’s prohibited,” he noted.

(NAN)

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