The director of the World Health Organization in Europe, he assured that the exponential growth of cases on the continent is “very worrying” and entails restrictive measures “absolutely necessary” to stop the pandemic.
At a press conference, Dr. Hans Kluge explained that there are currently two or three times more cases a day than the peak of the April curve, although the number of deaths is five times lower.
The region has recorded the highest weekly incidence of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 700,000 reported cases. Currently, the coronavirus is the fifth leading cause of death in Europe and up to 1000 deaths have been recorded in one day. Confirmed cases now exceed 7 million, going from 6 to 7 million cases in just 10 days.
The virus has not changed; it has become neither more nor less dangerous.
“The virus has not changed; it has become neither more nor less dangerous. There are technical reasons for observing higher rates, one of which is undoubtedly the number of tests performed, with even higher test rates among younger ages. And there are reasons for lower mortality, including the higher proportion of transmission among the least vulnerable youth, ”Kluge said.
The head of the WHO in Europe warned that, although there are fewer deaths there is still the realistic potential for the situation to drastically worsen if the disease spreads again among older people after social contacts with other generations.
UNICEF / Alessio Romenzi
“Projections from reliable epidemiological models are not optimistic. These indicate that prolonged relaxation policies could drive, by January 2021, daily mortality to reach levels 4 to 5 times higher than those registered in April, “he said.
Kluge called on governments and their citizens to be “Inflexible” in their attempts to control the spread of the virus that is occurring in homes, closed spaces and communities that do not comply with protection measures.
“Any new “escalation” of measures would be the result of non-compliance with the previous, so it is up to us to accept them while they are still relatively easy to follow instead of returning to the path of very severe measures that many tragically suffered since last spring, “he said.
Kluge cited epidemiological models that suggest that if 95% of people wear a mask and other social distancing measures are applied, such as strict control of social gatherings, Europe could avoid some 281,000 deaths by February.
“Under proportionally stricter scenarios, the model is much more optimistic, maintaining slightly higher levels of morbidity and mortality than in the first wave, but with a lower slope, something like a higher and longer swell rather than a strong peak, giving us more time to react, ”he explained.
He added that projections do nothing more than confirm what they have always said: “the pandemic will not reverse its course by itself, we have to do it ourselves”
World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie
Proportional and specific responses
Kluge said that measures are tightening in many European countries, which he described as adequate and necessary responses to what the data says: transmission and sources of contamination occur in homes and closed public places, and within communities. that poorly comply with self-protection measures.
The expert explained that, however, when speaking of restrictive measures the WHO does not speak of imposing a strict confinement as happened in March, where all corners of society and the economy came to a standstill: no businesses in operation, without excursions, without schools, without movement and with all borders closed.
“In March, the blockade was the default option because we were caught off guard. Today, blocking means something very different. It means a gradual escalation of proportionate, specific and time-limited measures. Measures in which we are all committed as individuals and as a society as a whole to minimize collateral damage to our health, our economy and our society ”he explained.
Kluge assured that any decision by governments must consider the direct risks of collateral damage that this may carry in terms of mental health, access to basic services, gender violence, education, and the economy.
“All of these risks must be closely monitored. We call on governments and individuals to express empathy and engage in social dialogue with those most affected by the restrictive measures so that hope, commitment and trust prevail among them ”, he concluded.