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WHO warns of risk of a new COVID-19 wave

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that a new wave of COVID-19 in the WHO European Region is possible in the autumn if precautions are not taken.

Dr Hans Kluge, the head of WHO European Region, told a press conference in Copenhagen today (1 July) that, conditions are in place for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 before the autumn.

“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths before the autumn are in place,” Dr Kluge said. “New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing. There will be a new wave in the WHO European Region unless we remain disciplined, and even more so when there are less rules in place to follow – and unless we all take the vaccine without hesitating when it is our turn. “

Last week marked the end to a ten-week decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the 53 countries in the WHO European Region.

The number of cases rose by 10% in Europe driven by increased mixing, travel, gatherings, and easing of social restrictions.

“With these figures, nowhere is the pandemic over, and it would be very wrong for anyone – citizen and policy makers – to assume that it is,” Dr Kluge warns.

The new delta variant has overtaken alpha and is already translating into increased hospitalizations and deaths.

“By August, the WHO European Region will be “delta dominant”, but by August the region will not be fully vaccinated (63% of people are still waiting for their first jab) and in August the WHO European Region will still be mostly restriction-free, with increasing travels and gatherings,” Dr Kluge said.

WHO insist that vaccines ARE effective against the delta variant, but two doses are required.

The average vaccine coverage in the Europe region is 24% only, and half of elders and 40% of health care workers are still unprotected.

“This is unacceptable and far from the recommended 80% coverage of the adult population,” says Dr Kluge.