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COVID-19

Pandemic in Europe won’t be over until 70 percent are vaccinated, says WHO

The WHO's European director warned Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic won't end until at least 70 percent of people are vaccinated, and criticised Europe's vaccine rollout as "too slow".

Pandemic in Europe won't be over until 70 percent are vaccinated, says WHO
A French red cross member administers a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to a woman at the Covid-19 vaccination centre Paris La Defense Arena in Nanterre, west of Paris on the opening day on May 3, 2021. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

The World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said countries and their populations must not become complacent about the pandemic.

“Don’t think the Covid-19 pandemic is over,” Kluge told AFP in an interview, while adding that vaccination rates needed to increase.

“The pandemic will be over once we reach 70 percent minimum coverage in vaccination,” the regional director said.

In the 53 countries and territories that make up the WHO’s European region — including several in Central Asia —  26 percent of the population has received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

In the European Union, 36.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose and 16.9 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to a count by AFP.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How fast are European countries vaccinating against Covid-19?
READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have in place for travel from the UK?

Kluge said one of his main concerns was the increased contagiousness of new variants.

“We know, for example, that the B.1617 (Indian variant) is more transmissible than the B.117 (British variant), which was already more transmissible than the previous strain,” Kluge noted.

Cases of the so-called Indian variant have been recorded in 27 of the region’s 53 countries, while the number of new cases, and deaths, has fallen for five consecutive weeks, reaching their lowest levels since mid-October.

Speed essential
Worldwide, new cases have dropped for four weeks in a row, according to an AFP tally.

But while vaccines have proven effective against coronavirus mutations, people must still be vigilant, Kluge emphasised.

The Belgian doctor said a major concern was that “people drop their guards, that they become complacent,” especially going into the summer months.

In addition, large gatherings are on the horizon in conjunction with the European football championship.

“Let’s finally give Covid-19 the red card, don’t allow extra time for Covid-19,” Kluge quipped, repeating advice to maintain social distances and wear face masks.

He also underscored that speed is “of essence” during the pandemic.

“Our best friend is speed, time is working against us, (and) the vaccination rollout is still going too slowly,” Kluge said.
 
“We need to accelerate, we need to enlarge the number of vaccines,” and European countries needed to show more solidarity, he said.

“It is not acceptable that some countries are starting to vaccinate the younger, healthy part of the population, while other countries in our region have still not covered all the health care workers and the most vulnerable people,” he added.

Member comments

  1. hope people can memorize this claim, im really looking forward to whats going to happen when we reach 70%.

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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