COPENHAGEN: The World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe warned on Wednesday (Dec 16) of a "further resurgence" of COVID-19 in early 2021, as it urged families to wear face masks during this year's Christmas gatherings.
The United Nations health organisation said in a statement that while some "fragile progress" had been made, "COVID-19 transmission across the European region remains widespread and intense".
"There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021, and we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it," WHO Europe said.
It urged the public "not (to) underestimate the importance of your decisions" and to take extra precautions as many prepare to gather for the holidays.
If possible, the WHO said celebrations should be held outdoors and "participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing".
For indoor festivities, the WHO said limiting the number of guests and ensuring good ventilation were key to reducing the risk of infection.
"It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy," the health agency said.
The WHO's European Region comprises 53 countries and includes Russia and several countries in Central Asia. The region has registered more than 22 million cases of COVID-19 and close to 500,000 deaths.