Pandemic stabilizing in Europe but WHO urges caution

Madrid Desk, Jan 24 (EFE).- The coronavirus pandemic in Europe is entering a new, more stabilized phase, the World Health Organization’s Europe chief said on Monday, although he urged the region to stay on alert as case numbers and hospitalizations continued to grow.

“The pandemic is far from over, but I am hopeful we can end the emergency phase in 2022 and address other health threats that urgently require our attention,” Hans Kluge said in a statement.

Kluge warned that while the Omicron variant seemed less severe than Delta, infection and hospitalization rates were still soaring across the region, although fewer patients were being transferred to intensive care units.

The head of the WHO’s Europe office said many of those being admitted to hospital were unvaccinated.

“Too many people who need the vaccine remain unvaccinated. This is helping to drive transmission, prolonging the pandemic and increasing the likelihood of new variants.”

While vaccine rates in parts of eastern Europe remain low, countries in western Europe are pressing ahead with plans to extend the use of Covid vaccination passes.

In an interview on Sunday, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said he wanted to make vaccination mandatory as he aims to get 90% of Germany’s population vaccinated.

Currently, around 75% have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Scholz was meeting with representatives of the state and federal governments to discuss extending the current measures, which have seen restrictions placed on much of the night life sector.

In neighboring France, the controversial Covid-19 vaccine pass came into effect on Monday after the constitutional council approved the measure last week.

The pass is required for people over the age of 16 to enter most public venues including bars, restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

But the new measure, which is part of president Emmanuel Macron’s drive to make life difficult for those who refuse to get vaccinated, did not create any problems for Parisian business owners.

“There are some clients who resist, but they end up understanding it, because it’s not us (gyms) imposing it,” gym manager in Paris, Nicolas Ferrara, tells Efe.

The United Kingdom was taking a different approach with its Covid-19 rules and on Monday announced that obligatory testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England would be scrapped from February 11.

“What we’re doing on travel (is) to show that this country is open for business, open for travellers,” Johnson told UK media.

Most of England’s Covid-19 rules, including the use of facemasks in indoor settings, will end on January 27.


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