WHO urges vigilance amid fears of Covid-19 ‘super spreader’ events at Euro 2021

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that Covid cases are on the rise again in Europe and called for better monitoring of the movements of spectators attending Euro 2021 football matches.

“There will be a new wave in the WHO’s European region unless we remain disciplined,” Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said at a news conference.

Kluge noted that the number of cases had decreased over 10 weeks in the WHO’s European region, saying that “last week the number of cases increased by 10 percent, driven by more mixing, travel, gatherings and easing of social restrictions.”

Kluge warned that the turnaround came in the context of increasing cases of the Delta variant, first noticed in India, which the regional director said “Alpha is catching up very quickly,” referring to the variant that first showed up in India. Britain.

A report from the EU disease control agency ECDC estimated that the more contagious Delta variant could be responsible for 90 percent of new cases in the EU by the end of August.

Kluge also said that by August the Delta variety could become the dominant species in the WHO’s European Region, which consists of 53 countries and territories — including several in Central Asia.

By then, however, “the region will not be fully vaccinated,” Kluge said.

About 63 percent of people are “still waiting for their first shot,” he said, although the region “will still be largely free of restrictions” by then.

Vaccines have been shown to also protect against the Delta variant, but two doses are needed for a high level of protection.

Kluge said the average vaccination rate in the WHO’s European region was 24 percent, but half of the elderly and 40 percent of health professionals were still unprotected.

“That’s unacceptable, and that’s far from the recommended 80 percent coverage of the adult population,” Kluge said.

‘Super-spreader’ events?

When asked if the Euro Championship could possibly act as a “super spreader” event, Kluge replied: “I hope not…but this cannot be ruled out.”

The UN agency called for better monitoring of spectators, including before they arrive and after they leave stadiums.

“We need to look much further than just the stadiums themselves,” said Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO’s European office, when asked for recommendations in light of increasing cases in London and St Petersburg.

The British capital will host the semifinals and final of the tournament next week, while the Russian city will host the quarterfinals between Switzerland and Spain on Friday.

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, will host the match between Denmark and the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Hundreds of cases have been identified among spectators attending European Championship matches, including Scots returning from London, Finns returning from St Petersburg and carriers of the more contagious Delta strain in Copenhagen.

“What we need to look at is around the stadiums. How do people get there? Do they travel in large convoys of buses? Do they take individual measures?” said Smallwood.

She added that it was important to look at what happened after the games, for example when fans gathered in crowded bars.

“Should this mixing occur, there will be cases,” she said.

The WHO also called for vigilance around all major summer gatherings, not just football matches.

“What we know is that in a context of increasing transmission, large mass gatherings can act as amplifiers in terms of transmission,” Smallwood said.

( Jowharwith AFP)

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