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COVID-19

Pandemic in Europe won’t be over until 70 percent are vaccinated, says WHO

The WHO's European director warned Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic won't end until at least 70 percent of people are vaccinated, and criticised Europe's vaccine rollout as "too slow".

Pandemic in Europe won't be over until 70 percent are vaccinated, says WHO
A French red cross member administers a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to a woman at the Covid-19 vaccination centre Paris La Defense Arena in Nanterre, west of Paris on the opening day on May 3, 2021. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

The World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said countries and their populations must not become complacent about the pandemic.

“Don’t think the Covid-19 pandemic is over,” Kluge told AFP in an interview, while adding that vaccination rates needed to increase.

“The pandemic will be over once we reach 70 percent minimum coverage in vaccination,” the regional director said.

In the 53 countries and territories that make up the WHO’s European region — including several in Central Asia —  26 percent of the population has received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

In the European Union, 36.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose and 16.9 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a count by AFP.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How fast are European countries vaccinating against Covid-19?
READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have in place for travel from the UK?

Kluge said one of his main concerns was the increased contagiousness of new variants.

“We know, for example, that the B.1617 (Indian variant) is more transmissible than the B.117 (British variant), which was already more transmissible than the previous strain,” Kluge noted.

Cases of the so-called Indian variant have been recorded in 27 of the region’s 53 countries, while the number of new cases, and deaths, has fallen for five consecutive weeks, reaching their lowest levels since mid-October.

Speed essential
Worldwide, new cases have dropped for four weeks in a row, according to an AFP tally.

But while vaccines have proven effective against coronavirus mutations, people must still be vigilant, Kluge emphasised.

The Belgian doctor said a major concern was that “people drop their guards, that they become complacent,” especially going into the summer months.

In addition, large gatherings are on the horizon in conjunction with the European football championship.

“Let’s finally give Covid-19 the red card, don’t allow extra time for Covid-19,” Kluge quipped, repeating advice to maintain social distances and wear face masks.

He also underscored that speed is “of essence” during the pandemic.

“Our best friend is speed, time is working against us, (and) the vaccination rollout is still going too slowly,” Kluge said.
 
“We need to accelerate, we need to enlarge the number of vaccines,” and European countries needed to show more solidarity, he said.

“It is not acceptable that some countries are starting to vaccinate the younger, healthy part of the population, while other countries in our region have still not covered all the health care workers and the most vulnerable people,” he added.

Member comments

  1. hope people can memorize this claim, im really looking forward to whats going to happen when we reach 70%.

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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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