Tipping point in battle against coronavirus, regional policy coherence, solidarity needed: WHO Europe

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, January 7, 2021
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COPENHAGEN, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge once again called for "regional policy coherence and solidarity" as the vaccine rollout against COVID-19 gathered pace across parts of the continent, during his first press conference of 2021 on Thursday.

"This moment represents a tipping point in the course of the pandemic -- where science, politics, technology, and values must form a united front, in order to push back this persistent and elusive virus."

Especially concerning to the WHO official was the new coronavirus variant called B117, currently confirmed to be in 22 countries.

"It spreads across all age groups, and children do not appear to be at higher risk. But, with increased transmissibility and similar disease severity, the variant does, however, raise alarm as without increased control to slow its spread, there will be an increased impact on already stressed and pressurized health facilities," said Kluge.

He noted that "it was also the WHO assessment that the variant would over time, replace other circulating lineages of the virus in the region as already "seen in the United Kingdom, and increasingly in Denmark."

To mitigate the burden of the new variant and future variants, the WHO official called upon governments in the region to work together and investigate unusually rapid transmissions, increase the sequencing testing and share data.

"Solidarity in science is crucial at this time," said Kluge.

The WHO Regional Director balanced a picture of the devastating impact of COVID-19 in 2020 on the WHO European Region which accounted for 26 million COVID-19 positive cases, and over 580,000 related deaths with the specter of a more devastating "second wave" as the region begins a new year.

"As we enter 2021, over 230 million people in the European region are living in countries under full national lockdown with more countries set to announce lockdown measures in the coming week," said Kluge.

He noted that transmission across the region has sustained at very high rates of infection.

"As of 6 January, among all countries and territories in Europe, almost half have a seven-day incidence of over 150 new cases per 100,000 population. Over one quarter of all European member states and territories are seeing very high incidences and strained health systems."

Kluge also addressed the inequality in vaccine rollout across Europe which has seen some southern European countries unable to provide a reputable vaccine or any vaccine at all to their people.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 235 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 63 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 6. Enditem

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