GENEVA: Fresh lockdowns in Europe are avoidable, including through near-universal mask-wearing, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe office said on Thursday.
Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said that some health systems are being overwhelmed on the continent where more than 29,000 deaths were recorded in the past week alone. “Europe is once again the epicentre of the pandemic, together with the United States. There is light at the end of the tunnel but it will be a six tough months,” Kluge told a news conference, speaking from Copenhagen.
“Lockdowns are avoidable, I stand by my position that lockdowns are a last resort measure. Mask use is by no means a panacea, and needs to be done in combination with other measures. However, if mask use reached 95 per cent, lockdowns would not be needed.” Lockdowns should be lifted safely and gradually, he added, warning about the negative impact of ‘easing too quickly’.
Primary schools should be kept open, Kluge said, adding that children and adolescents are not driving the spread of the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 and school closures are “not effective”.
Despite encouraging news in the last week about vaccines, they are “not a silver bullet because we know the supply will be limited particularly in the beginning”, he said. WHO is in touch with the developers of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine regarding clinical trial data, he said.
KIDS AND GATHERINGS
Children in the German city of Hamburg were four times more likely to catch coronavirus during private gatherings than at school, an analysis of infection cases between August and October showed.
The Hamburg school authority said 78 per cent of the 372 children infected with the virus between the summer and autumn holidays caught it outside school, with children under 12 only half as likely to become infected as older ones. It said many schools only registered one infection in a year group within 10 days, suggesting it was unlikely that the affected student spread it to classmates.
Most children became infected at home, at parties or other private gatherings. Of the 472 schools in Hamburg, 171 recorded infections, but only 23 of those had multiple infections. As coronavirus infections have soared across Europe again, Germany imposed a month-long “lockdown light” on November 2, closing bars and restaurants but keeping schools and shops open.
RUSSIA CASES SOAR
Russia’s health minister urged regional leaders on Thursday to take further steps to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the country’s COVID-19 case tally passed 2 million and the number of daily deaths and infections hit new highs. Despite the surge in cases, taking Russia’s overall tally to 2,015,608, authorities have resisted imposing lockdown restrictions across the country as they did earlier this year. — Reuters