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COVID-19

Europe will see rise in Covid-19 deaths in coming months, WHO warns

The World Health Organization expects Europe to see a rise in the daily number of Covid-19 deaths in October and November, the head of the body's European branch told AFP.

Europe will see rise in Covid-19 deaths in coming months, WHO warns
Illustration photo: AFP
Cases in Europe have risen sharply in recent weeks, especially in Spain and France. More than 51,000 new cases were reported on Friday alone in the 55 countries monitored by WHO Europe, which is more than the highest peak in
April, according to the organisation.
   
“It's going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said.
   
Even though the continent is experiencing a surge of cases, the number of deaths has remained relatively stable. But the resurgence is expected to lead to an increase in daily fatalities, the WHO said.
 
   
“It's a moment where countries don't want to hear this bad news, and I understand,” Kluge told AFP in an interview, stressing that he wanted to send the “positive message” that the pandemic “is going to finish, at one moment or another.”
   
The WHO Europe's over 50 member states are holding an online meeting on Monday and Tuesday to discuss their response to the new coronavirus and agree on their overall five-year strategy.
 
 
 
WHO Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
   
However Kluge, based in Copenhagen, issued a warning to those who believe that the development of a vaccine will end the pandemic.
 
“I hear the whole time: 'the vaccine is going to be the end of the pandemic'. Of course not!,” the Belgian said.
 
“We don't even know if the vaccine is going to help all population groups. We are getting some signs now that it will help for one group and not for the other,” he said. “And then if we have to order different vaccines, what a logistical nightmare!”
   
“The end of the pandemic is the moment that we as a community are going to learn how to live with this pandemic. And it depends on us and that's a very positive message,” he said.
 
 
Incomplete picture
 
Kluge warned of approaches becoming overly politicised and said it was important that the response be based “on epidemiological and public health data.”
   
He also defended authorities that have been hesitant to impose and ease measures in recent months as they are faced with a new disease.   
 
“WHO has been blamed a number of times but communicating on something you don't really know is very very difficult,” Kluge said. “For some you do too little for some you go too far,” he said.
   
According to Kluge, as research progresses, knowledge of the virus remains imperfect, meaning that decisions must be made with an incomplete picture.   
 
“In a number of countries we see that the politics overwrite the scientists and also in a number of other countries we see that people are doubting the science, that's very dangerous,” Kluge said.
   
In countries covered by WHO Europe, the number of daily deaths has remained at around the same level since early June, with around 400-500 deaths per day linked to Covid-19, agency data showed.
   
Despite the worrying trend, the responses now should not be the same as those adopted in the winter and early spring.
   
“In February we were targeting society… now we are targeting the virus,” Kluge said, adding that measures could now be imposed on a more local level.   
 
“If we have a good surveillance system we should be able to control it locally and then in a couple of weeks, relax again,” Kluge said.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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