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Lockdowns in Europe avoidable, school closures not effective: WHO Europe

Lockdowns in Europe avoidable, school closures not effective: WHO Europe

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask stands next to the empty beer garden of a closed restaurant during the resurging coronavirus outbreak in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct 20, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/David W Cerny)

GENEVA: Fresh lockdowns in Europe are avoidable, including through near-universal mask-wearing, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe office said on Thursday (Nov 19).

Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said that some health systems are being overwhelmed on the continent where more than 29,000 deaths were recorded in the past week alone.

READ: Greece shuts schools as hospitals are overwhelmed

READ: Romania: Fire in COVID-19 intensive care unit kills 10

"Europe is once again the epicentre of the pandemic, together with the United States. There is light at the end of the tunnel but it will be a six tough months," Kluge told a news conference, speaking from Copenhagen.

READ: COVID-19 curbs tighten in Europe as global deaths top 1.3 million

"Lockdowns are avoidable, I stand by my position that lockdowns are a last resort measure. Mask use is by no means a panacea, and needs to be done in combination with other measures. However, if mask use reached 95 per cent, lockdowns would not be needed."

READ: New COVID-19 cases and deaths rise sharply in France

READ: 'Can't take any more': Lisbon's bar, restaurant workers protest amid COVID-19 rules

Lockdowns should be lifted safely and gradually, he added, warning about the negative impact of 'easing too quickly'.

Primary schools should be kept open, Kluge said, adding that children and adolescents are not driving the spread of the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 and school closures are "not effective".

READ: Vaccine will not be enough to stop COVID-19 pandemic, says WHO chief

READ: Shot in the dark: Early COVID-19 vaccine efficacy explained

Despite encouraging news in the last week about vaccines, they are "not a silver bullet because we know the supply will be limited particularly in the beginning", he said.

WHO is in touch with the developers of Russia's Sputnik vaccine regarding clinical trial data, he said.

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Source: Reuters/kv

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