The World Health Organization has asserted that full-scale lockdowns should be a “last resort” in fighting the novel coronavirus, even as several countries in Europe are seeking to introduce more public-health measures to limit the spread of the contagion.
“A proportional and targeted response is the way forward. Measures or tightening up in many countries in Europe … are appropriate and necessary responses to what the data is telling us,” Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said Thursday during a press briefing.
“It is never too late (to tighten measures) but of course, definitely, we are concerned. In general, this is the time to step up the restrictive measures … with lockdowns as a very, very last resort. We know much better than in March what can, and needs, to be done.”
Europe now has more than 7.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to the WHO, and many hospitals in the region are having trouble keeping up with the massive influx of new patients.
“The full winter surge continues to unfold in Europe with exponential increases in daily cases and matching percentage increases in daily deaths,” Kluge said. “The evolving epidemiological situation in Europe raises great concern.”
France has recently declared a public health state of emergency, the United Kingdom is heading toward a second national lockdown, and Germany has green-lighted new directives in an effort to curb the virus’ relentless spread.
“We need to be uncompromising … as these measures are meant to keep us all ahead of the curve and to flatten its course. … Any further escalation of measures would be the result of failure in complying with the preceding ones, it is therefore up to us to accept them while they are still relatively easy to follow.”
Kluge added that simple measures like social distancing and ensuring more of the population wear masks could save up to 281,000 lives on the continent by February 1. Less than 60 percent of citizens across the region were systematically wearing masks, he noted.
Now more than nine months into the pandemic, there are roughly thirty-nine million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, including at least 1.1 million related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.