It is possible to avoid fresh complete lockdowns in Europe, believes that World Health Organization (WHO) as a large swath of the continent is hit with a second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic and many countries already announcing and imposing new restrictions to prevent the spread of the infections.
The Geneva based organization’s Europe office said on Thursday that lockdown avoidance is possible through measures such as implementing almost universal mask wearing.
Over the past one week alone, more than 29,000 deaths were recorded in the continent and some of the health systems in some of the countries were being overwhelmed by the inflow of patients in the region, said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.
“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 said at 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%, lockdowns would not be needed.”
Late in October, a second phase of lockdowns was announced by France following daily Covid-19 caused deaths reaching their highest levels since April. The new restrictions, meant to be implemented for a month at least, however have a limited impact. According to health ministry data, after the lockdown was imposed, there was an immediate drop in infections and hospital admissions but which soon got reversed.
In Austria, a three-week lockdown is currently in force aimed to control the rise in Covid-19 cases and bring it under control by Christmas. One of the highest infection rates per capita in Europe has been registered in Austria. The daily new cases have reached nine times that of the peak during the first wave.
In Germany, a “circuit-breaker” national lockdown was started earlier this month to curb a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases. That included closing of restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms and stopping all leisure traveling. However, schools are still open while worship and protests are still allowed.
In Portugal, a worse than the first wave of the Cvoid-19 infection is being witnessed – which has prompted one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.
He added that it is imperative that lifting of lockdowns should be done in a gradual and sage manner while also warning of the potential serious negative consequences of ‘easing too quickly’.
Kluge said that countries should keep their primary schools open and added that the spread of the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 is not being driven in any way by children and adolescents and therefore closing down of schools will not have any effective outcome over the spread of the pandemic.
He also said that the vaccines that have been announced to be successful are “not a silver bullet because we know the supply will be limited particularly in the beginning”, despite very positive news of high efficacy of at least two vaccine candidates were announced since last week.
He also added that that the WHO is in touch with about the clinical trial data for the Russia’s Sputnik vaccine with the developers of the vaccine.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)