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WHO envoy warns of third pandemic wave in Europe in 2021

WHO envoy warns of third pandemic wave in Europe in 2021
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A World Health Organization (WHO) official said Europe is at risk of a third wave of the coronavirus in 2021 if leaders do not correct what he said were errors they made during the second wave.

European nations “missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months, after they brought the first wave under the control,” David Nabarro, a special COVID-19 envoy with the WHO, told Swiss media, according to Reuters.

“Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we’ll have a third wave early next year,” Nabarro added.

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In the initial spring wave of the pandemic, strict lockdown measures and aggressive testing appeared to successfully suppress the virus in countries such as Germany and France. Now, however, cases are spiking throughout the continent. While much of Europe has imposed new restrictions, few are as severe as in the spring. Nabarro specifically faulted Swiss officials for allowing skiing to continue.

Comparatively, he said, in East Asian countries such as South Korea, “people are fully engaged, they take on behaviours that make it difficult for the virus. They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they’re sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups.”

In contrast to those countries, Nabarro said, Western Europe began rolling back restrictions when the numbers first dipped rather than waiting for a sustained, long-term decline.

“You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low,” he said, according to Reuters. “Europe’s reaction was incomplete.”

Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said last week that case growth in Europe appears to be slowing, noting that new cases had fallen to 1.8 million in the preceding week, a 10 percent decline from two weeks before.

“It is a small signal, but it is a signal nevertheless,” Kluge said at a news conference.