The World Health Organization has warned that a third wave of infections is now inevitable in Europe after a rise in coronavirus infections cases.
The WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge told the press on Thursday in Copenhagen, Denmark that the number of new cases across Europe rose by 10 percent last week.
Raising the alarm, the UN health agency advised citizens and legislators to be more “disciplined” as the highly infectious Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the European regions.
The WHO’s 53-nation European region includes all 27 member states of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, several Central Asian nations, and Israel.
Kluge said the uptick in infections was driven by increased mixing, travel, gatherings, and easing of social restrictions, as countries throughout the region edge out of lockdown measures.
“This is taking place in the context of a rapidly evolving situation. A new variant of concern – the Delta variant – and in a region where, despite tremendous efforts by member states, millions remain unvaccinated,” he said, citing the strain first discovered in India. There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined,” he advised.
Speaking on vaccine rollout, Kluge explained that the vaccines were not being rolled out with enough efficiency to offer the necessary protection amid the surge and 63 percent of people in the region yet to receive a first dose.
He mentioned that vaccines have been shown to offer some protection against the Delta variant, but a higher level requires two doses.
Marco Cavaleri, Head of Vaccine Strategy at the European Medicines Agency, told a news conference on Thursday: “Emerging data from real-world evidence are showing that two doses of vaccines are protective against the Delta variant.”
Kluge said the average vaccine coverage in the European region was 24 percent.
“Half of elderly people and 40 percent of healthcare workers were still unprotected. That is unacceptable, and that is far from the recommended 80 percent coverage of the adult population.
“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalisations and deaths before the autumn are therefore in place: New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing,” he told reporters.
Kluge advised people who want to travel and gather over the European summer to continue “life-saving reflexes” such as wearing masks.