‘Alarming rates’ of coronavirus transmission in Europe should serve as ‘wake-up call,’ WHO official warns

A World Health Organization official this week warned of the “alarming rates of transmission” of the novel coronavirus in Europe, urging residents there to view the “very serious situation unfolding before us” as a “wake-up call.”

Dr. Hans Kluge, the regional director of WHO Europe, made the warning during a virtual press conference on Thursday when noting that weekly cases “have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.”

World Health Organization regional director Dr. Hans Kluge speaks during an online news conference with Katie Smallwood, WHO Europe’s senior health emergency officer, in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Thursday Sept. 17, 2020. Kluge said his decision to wear a mask was “a clear signal that we are going into a worsening situation” with the coronavirus in WHO Europe’s 53-country region.
(David Barrett/WHO via AP)

“Last week, the region’s tally exceeded 300,000 patients,” he said.

“More than half of European countries have reported a greater than 10 percent increase in cases in the past two weeks. Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period,” he continued.

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Kluge added that the region saw the “impact of strict lockdown measures” in “the spring and early summer,” noting that “our efforts, our sacrifice, paid off.”

Though cases in June hit an all-time low,  Kluge warned: “The September case numbers, however, should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.”

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he said, noting that the biggest proportion of cases continue to be reported in the 25-49 age group.

“This pandemic has taken so much from us. In Europe 4,893,614 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded and 226,524 deaths. This tells only part of the story – the impact of our mental health, economies, livelihoods, and society has been monumental,” he said when calling for a unified effort from “all European Member States” to control the virus.

Kluge also addressed so-called “quarantine fatigue,” pointing to France’s recent changes in its required time in self-isolation time for those potentially exposed to COVID-19 from 14 days to seven.

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“The concept of quarantine must be protected, continuously adapted, clarified, and well communicated without any ambiguity,” he said.

“The response to the crisis has been very effective whenever the actions were prompt and resolute. But the virus has [proven] merciless whenever partisanship and disinformation prevailed,” he added. “Where the pandemic goes from here is in our hands. We have fought it back before and we can fight it back again.”