World Health Organisation worried as Covid-19 attacks Europe again

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A sign displays Covid-19 health rules at a Christmas market in Salzburg, Austria (AFP Photo)

London, November 21, 2021

The World Health Organisation is ‘very worried’ over the spread of Covid-19 in Europe as the Continent battles a fresh wave of infections.

Speaking to the BBC, Regional Director Dr Hans Kluge warned that 500,000 more deaths could be recorded by March 2022 unless urgent action is taken.

Kluge said that an increase in mask wearing could immediately help.

The warning comes as several nations reported record-high infection rates and introduce full and partial lockdowns.

The contributing factors

Kluge said that factors like the winter season, insufficient vaccine coverage and the regional dominance of the more transmissible Delta variant were behind the spread.

He called for increased vaccine uptake and the implementation of basic public health measures and new medical treatments to help fight the rise.

“Covid-19 has become once again the number one cause of mortality in our region. We know what needs to be done to fight the virus,” he told the BBC.

Kluge said that mandatory vaccination measures should be seen as a “last resort” but that it would be “very timely” to have a “legal and societal debate” about the issue.

“Before that, there are other means like the Covid Pass. This is not a restriction of liberty, rather it is a tool to keep our individual freedom,” he said.

A protest against Covid-19 health measures in Vienna (AFP Photo)

Austria mandates Vaccination

Austria on Friday became the first European country to announce that Covid-19 vaccination would become a legal requirement. The new rules are set to come into force in February 2022, as details of how the measure will be enforced are still being discussed.

The announcement, alongside that of a new national lockdown, was made in response to record case numbers and low vaccination levels.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said that it was a difficult decision to take in a free society, but that the jabs were “the only exit ticket we have to break this vicious circle.”

“It is a problem for the whole society because even those that are vaccinated, if they do not have access to an intensive care unit because they are blocked by those who are not vaccinated and got sick, so then they are affected as well,” he told the BBC.

On Saturday, November 20, 2021, tens of thousands of people protested against the new measures in the capital Vienna. Many waved signs with slogans such as “no to vaccination” and “enough is enough.”

Many other European countries are also imposing new measures as cases rise.

Countries including the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also announced fresh restrictions on unvaccinated people as record infection rates are recorded across the continent.

Overnight, violent rioting erupted in Rotterdam in the Netherlands over new Covid-19 measures. Hundreds of protesters had gathered to show their anger at government plans for more restrictions.

A protest against Covid-19 measures in Rotterdam turned violent (AFP Photo)

Emergency in Germany?

In Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn described the situation as a “national emergency” and refused to rule out another national lockdown.

The UK recorded 44,242 new coronavirus cases on Friday, November 19, 2021.

The UK government has consistently said it has no plans for another lockdown for England but has said that it could bring in extra Covid measures, known as Plan B, to protect the NHS.

These would include mandatory Covid passports for some indoor venues, compulsory face coverings in certain indoor settings and advice to work from home.

Source: BBC News; published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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