Tue. Jun 22nd, 2021

A director of the World Health Organization (WHO) still sees the need for people to avoid international travel as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is not yet eradicated globally.

(Photo Courtesy: Al Jazeera)

WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge said that while new Covid-19 cases in Europe have fallen from 1.7 million in mid-April to about 685,000 cases last week, a decline of about 60 percent, there is still a need not to make the same mistakes in the past.

“This progress is fragile,” he during a briefing from Copenhagen.

“Let us not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year, that resulted in a resurgence of Covid-19 and saw our health systems, communities and economies once again bear the full force of this pandemic,” Kluge said.

Several countries have lifted travel restrictions in recent weeks for fully vaccinated travelers. The European Union said Wednesday it will soon allow entry for inoculated visitors.

Kluge added that a Covid-19 variant first identified in India has been found in 26 of the 53 countries in the European region. Most, he noted, have a link to international travel.

“In the face of a continued threat and new uncertainty we need to exercise caution and rethink or avoid international travel,” he said.

While the available vaccines appear to work against the new B.1.617 variant, Kluge emphasized that only about 11 percent of people in the European region are fully vaccinated. Fewer than a quarter have received the initial dose.

Catherine Smallwood, WHO senior European emergency officer, said the organization is tracking the variant “very closely.” SOVEREIGNPH

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