WHO warns against complacency, easing COVID-19 curbs recklessly

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World Health Organisation (WHO) emergencies head Michael Ryan urged countries to apply extreme caution when lifting restriction measures implemented to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2, warning that gains made so far must not be wasted.
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The idea that everyone is protected, and it's 'Kumbaya' and everything goes back to normal, I think right now is a very dangerous assumption anywhere in the world, and still is in the European environment

, Ryan told reporters during a meeting from Geneva on Wednesday.

Ryan said that while every nation must decide for itself, individuals including the unvaccinated must take responsibility to protect themselves and others, to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by another pandemic wave.

We would ask governments at this moment not to lose the gains you've made

, Reuters cited him as saying.  

“We’re tracking this virus circulation all over the world and we are seeing sharp increases in far too many countries right now,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead said at a briefing Wednesday.

The European region saw a 33% increase in Covid cases in the last week, but high vaccination rates can give the perception that the pandemic is over, WHO officials said.

“This is not a flat curve, this is an increasing curve.

Making assumptions that transmission will not increase because we’re opening up because of vaccines is a false assumption, transmission will increase when you open up.

“There are consequences,” said Ryan.

The delta variant that dominated the United Kingdom is now the dominant strain in the United States. The variant is more transmissible and could result in more severe disease, though more studies are needed to confirm that, WHO officials have previously said.

Ahead of reopening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the epidemiological situation may be aided by the arrival of summer and school holidays.

Ryan said he believed British scientists were “very aware of the threat represented by variants, especially the Delta variant” and would open cautiously.

The WHO also urged countries including the United States and Switzerland that are vaccinating 12- to 15-year-old children to instead donate doses to the vaccine sharing programme COVAX, to improve access for healthcare workers and the elderly in low-income countries.

It’s not the pediatric population that is suffering the most

, said WHO vaccine expert Ann Lindstrand. “It is the adults, it is the medical risk groups.”

There have been roughly 185 million confirmed cases of Covid across the globe and 4 million deaths so far, which WHO officials said is likely an undercount.

Some countries with high vaccination rates are planning to administer booster shots in the coming months, dropping mask mandates and “relaxing as though the pandemic is already over,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Far too many countries are seeing spikes in cases and hospitalizations that’s leading to a shortage of oxygen and driving a “wave of death” in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, he said.

“Vaccine nationalism where a handful of nations have taken the lion’s share is morally indefensible and an ineffective public health strategy against a respiratory virus that’s mutating quickly and becoming increasingly effective at moving from human to human,” CNBC cited Tedros as saying.

He said variants are currently winning the race against vaccines due to inequitable distribution of the lifesaving shots. At this stage in the pandemic, there are still millions of health-care workers that haven’t been vaccinated, which Tedros said was abhorrent: “It doesn’t have to be this way going forward.”

Cover photo: Shutterstock

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