Coronavirus cases have increased across Europe for the first time since the start of the year as countries begin to ease lockdown measures, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
The latest research from Our World In Data shows that there has been a recent increase in cases in Europe over the past week.
At a press conference on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said an increase in cases could be seen in four of the organization’s six regions – the Americas, Europe, the ‘Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Finland and Italy are among the European countries to see an increase in the number of new cases in recent days, according to Our World In Data.
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Tedros said the increase was “disappointing but not surprising”, dismissing it on the grounds that countries are relaxing public health measures, the spread of new variants and “people let their guard down.”
It comes as countries rush to vaccinate their populations, with the latest figures from the UK showing the deployment may already be helping to reduce deaths and hospitalizations.
Vaccination programs give countries hope that they can soon start lifting economically crippling lockdowns.
But Tedros said it was too early for countries to rely solely on immunization programs and abandon other measures.
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“If countries rely solely on vaccines, they are making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the bedrock of the response,” he said.
He also criticized rich countries for piling up doses of vaccines, saying it is in everyone’s best interests that vulnerable people are protected around the world.
Tedros noted that Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire became the first countries on Monday to start immunizing people with doses provided by COVAX, the international program for delivering vaccines to poor and middle-income countries.
However, he added: “It is unfortunate that some countries continue to prioritize immunization of young adults who are healthier and at lower risk of disease in their own populations, ahead of health workers and the elderly elsewhere.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical officer for COVID-19, said during the briefing: “We must have a stern warning for all of us: that this virus will rebound if we let it and we cannot let it” .
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Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, the organization’s leading emergency expert, said the global fight against the coronavirus is in a better state than it was 10 weeks ago before the vaccine rollout began. , but it was too early to tell the virus was coming. under control.
“The problem is, we are in control of the virus and the virus is in control of us. And at the moment the virus is very well under control,” he said.
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