While Europe is starting to see the first early signs that the coronavirus spike across the continent is beginning to ease, World Health Organization officials warn that European countries need to take care to not lift lockdowns too early and repeat the mistakes governments made in the spring that could lead to another surge in cases.
- David Nabarro, the WHO’s special coronavirus envoy, said Sunday to Swiss newspaper Solothurner Zeitung that European countries are in danger of setting themselves up for a third coronavirus wave in early 2021, before vaccines in the works could be widely administered to the general public, according to Deutsche Welle.
- To prevent another large outbreak after current restrictions are pulled back, he advised European governments to only ease lockdowns after coronavirus infection rates show a clear, sustained decrease.
- "You must wait [to repon] until case numbers are low and stay low," he said, according to Deutsche Welle. "Europe's reaction [in spring] was incomplete."
- Governments in Europe should also use the interval between spikes in new infections to increase their capacities for measures like contact tracing and to ramp up testing, he added, saying authorities didn’t take full advantage of the slowdown in infections over the summer to prepare for another surge.
"[Europe] missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months after they brought the first wave under the control," Nabarro said, according to Deutsche Welle. "Now we have the second wave. If they don't build the necessary infrastructure, we'll have a third wave early next year."
While early lockdowns helped stem a spring surge in Europe, countries across the continent began counting increased new infections in autumn after restrictions were pulled back. Last week, the WHO announced the number of new weekly coronavirus cases in Europe had dropped from the previous week for the first time in months, an early but hopeful sign that new lockdowns are working and that the continent’s second coronavirus wave may be beginning to ease. On Sunday, Nabarro pointed toward Asia for examples of countries that have successfully curbed coronavirus outbreaks: Taiwan marked its 200th day of no local viral transmissions last month, while countries like Japan and South Korea have also kept cases low compared to European countries.