WHO Europe chief: address health challenges as virus infections drop

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A decline in new coronavirus cases and virus-related deaths in Europe offers opportunities to address other health areas disrupted by the pandemic.

This is according to head of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) European office.

Transmission has begun to “slow’’ in most of the region, Hans Kluge of the Copenhagen-based agency said on Friday.

 

 

“Europe now accounts for a decreasing proportion of the global burden of disease and mortality currently at 28 per cent of new cases and 21 per cent of new deaths,’’ he said.

Kluge cautioned that it was not the time for Europe “to drop (its} guard’’, noting that Europe has had more than 37 million cases and nearly 830,000 deaths​ since the pandemic began.

However, with lower transmission rates, health officials could consider other health areas the pandemic has disrupted.

 

 

 

For instance, cancer treatments, childhood immunization programmes and a backlog of operations.

Another concern Kluge mentioned was a rise in the faulty use of antibiotics that could result in antimicrobial resistance.

Countries were urged to continue to vaccinate health workers and other groups against COVID-19, and keep public health and social measures in place.

 

 

Concerning vaccination statistics, Kluge said that less than two per cent of the population have completed their immunisation series in 30 countries in the region where data was available.

 

 

“Vaccines are certainly a game changer, but since supply is limited, our most effective tools remain public health and social measures,’’ Kluge said.

The WHO European region groups 53 countries. (dpa/NAN)