World Health Organization European Director Hans Kluge said on Thursday that COVID-19 transmission rates in the region remained too high, straining health services under great pressure and that it is therefore “too early to ease” the restrictions.
“We have to be patient, it will take time to vaccinate,” Kluge urged in an online briefing. “We have learned hard lessons: opening and closing, and reopening (companies) quickly is a bad strategy” to try to stop the contagion of the coronavirus.”
“Transmission rates in Europe are still very high, affecting health systems and straining services, so it is too early to relax” restrictions, Kluge said.
“Reducing transmission requires a constant and sustained effort. Consider that just over 3% of people in the region have had a confirmed COVID-19 infection. Areas that were once severely affected may be affected again.”
Kluge said a total of 35 countries in Europe had launched vaccination programs with 25 million doses administered to date.
“These vaccines have demonstrated the efficacy and safety that we all expected them to be … this monumental undertaking will take the pressure off our healthcare systems and will certainly save lives.”
He cautioned that sustained high transmission rates and emerging variants of the virus make it urgent to vaccinate priority groups, noting that the production and distribution rates of the vaccine still fall short of expectations.
“This paradox, where communities feel that the end of the vaccine is in sight but, at the same time, are called to adhere to restrictive measures in the face of a new threat, is causing tension, anguish, fatigue and confusion, something completely understandable in these circumstances.”
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