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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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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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