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28 Jan, 2021 13:04

WHO chief warns it’s ‘too early to ease up’ Covid-19 restrictions despite promise of vaccines

WHO chief warns it’s ‘too early to ease up’ Covid-19 restrictions despite promise of vaccines

The WHO’s European director has urged nations not to relax restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, noting that it will take time for the inoculation campaigns to make an impact on infection rates.

“We need to be patient, it will take time to vaccinate. We have learned harsh lessons – opening and closing, and reopening [societies] rapidly is a poor strategy,” the World Health Organization's (WHO) European director Hans Kluge said on Thursday. 

Kluge warned that the evidence suggested it wasn’t the right time to start reducing curbs on socializing, as infection rates remain too high and health services are under severe strain.

Transmission rates across Europe are still very high, impacting health systems and straining services, making it too early to ease up.

“Pushing transmission down requires a sustained, consistent effort. Bear in mind that just over three percent of people in the region have had a confirmed Covid-19 infection. Areas hit badly once can be hit again,” the WHO chief said. 

Kluge noted that the continent-wide vaccination program was providing hope that there would soon be an end to national lockdowns and other restrictions, but added that it would still take a while before inoculation has an impact on infections. 

“This paradox, where communities sense an end is in sight with the vaccine but, at the same time, are called to adhere to restrictive measures in the face of a new threat, is causing tension, angst, fatigue, and confusion. This is completely understandable in these circumstances,” he added. 

Kluge said that 35 countries in Europe had kicked off their vaccination program with 25 million doses administered so far. 

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Nations across Europe are currently subjected to harsh Covid-19 restrictions as infection rates and hospitalizations remain high. 

The EU’s vaccination campaign has got off to a slow start, as supply problems and a delayed start have hampered progress. The best performing mainland EU country, Denmark, has only vaccinated 3.7 people per 100, compared to 47.9 in Israel and more than 11.3 in the UK. 

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