The WHO’s European director warned Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic won’t be over until at least 70 percent of people are vaccinated, while deploring that the vaccine rollout in Europe is still “too slow”.
“The pandemic will be over once we reach 70 percent minimum coverage in vaccination,” the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview.
Kluge also said that one of his main worries was the increased contagiousness of new variants of the novel coronavirus.
“We know for example that the B.1617 (Indian variant) is more transmissible than the B.117 (British variant), which already was more transmissible than the previous strain,” Kluge said.
According to the Belgian doctor, speed is “of essence” in pandemic.
“Even when WHO declared a pandemic, many countries were still waiting, we lost valuable time.”
While the regional director, who has held the position since February 2020, lauded calls for solidarity he stressed that a speedy rollout of vaccines was of the utmost importance.
“Our best friend is speed, the time is working against us, the vaccination roll-out still goes too slow,” Kluge said.
“We need to accelerate, we need to enlarge the number of vaccines.”
In the 53 countries and territories that make up the WHO’s European region — including several in Central Asia — 26 percent of the population has received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
In the European Union, 36.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose, according to a count by AFP.
13 percent drop
The number of new daily Covid-19 cases around the world dropped by 13 percent to 554,200, according to an AFP toll.
The number of daily cases had fallen by half over a month at the beginning of the year to around 355,000, but started to spiral higher again on February 20. The number of cases then began to drop four weeks ago.
Europe accounted for the biggest slow down, with its number of cases this week falling by almost a quarter, or 24 percent.
The biggest drop was in Sweden by 51 percent to 1,900 new cases per day. Poland followed with 47 percent less, Germany 41 percent less, Ukraine 33 percent less and Switzerland 33 percent less.
The number of confirmed cases only reflects a fraction of the actual number of infections, with different countries also having varying counting practices and levels of testing.
Despite the overall improvement in Europe, the UK was the country where the pandemic picked up most speed, with 74 percent more cases or 2,600 per day.
The Covid variant which emerged in India, which is feared to be particularly contagious, accounted for between half and three quarters of the new cases, according to the UK government.
Bahrain followed with 55 percent more cases, Bangladesh 50 percent more, Kuwait 46 percent more and Malaysia 43 percent more.
India also continued to mourn the most deaths, with 4,016 per day, followed by Brazil 1,797, the US (661), Colombia (494) and Argentina (491).
At the world level the number of deaths dropped by six percent this week to 11,563 per day.
However, the World Health Organization believes that as many as three times more people have died because of the pandemic than official figures suggest.