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COVID-19

Europe’s ‘alarming’ infection rates and shorter quarantine periods worry WHO chiefs

The European chapter of the World Health Organization on Thursday said it saw "alarming rates of transmission" of Covid-19 across the region and warned countries against shortening quarantine periods.

Europe's 'alarming' infection rates and shorter quarantine periods worry WHO chiefs
A Spanish health worker and volunteer of the SAMU Foundation forms the figure of a heart with her hands before entering the intensive care unit. AFP

The WHO's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said the number of coronavirus cases seen in September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.”

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he told an online press conference from Danish capital Copenhagen.

The health body also said it would not change its guidance calling for a 14-day quarantine period for anyone exposed to the novel coronavirus.

“Our quarantine recommendation of 14 days has been based on our understanding of the incubation period and transmission of the disease. We would only revise that on the basis of a change of our understanding of the science,” WHO Europe's senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said.

In France for instance, the recommended length for self-isolation in case of exposure has been reduced to seven days.

It is 10 days in the UK and Ireland, and several more European countries, such as Portugal and Croatia, are currently considering reducing their recommendations.

“Knowing the immense individual and societal impact even a slight reduction in the length of quarantine can have… I encourage countries of the region to make scientific due process with their experts and explore safe reduction options,” Kluge said, adding that the “concept of quarantine must be protected” and “continuously adapted.”

The 53 member states of WHO Europe have recorded nearly five million cases of Covid-19 and more than 227,000 related deaths, according to the organisation's own figures.

The number of daily cases recorded is currently between 40,000 and 50,000, comparable to a daily peak of 43,000 on April 1 — although testing in many countries has increased considerably.

A new record was set on September 11, with some 54,000 cases recorded in 24  hours.

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COVID-19

Sweden to stop offering Covid jabs to teenagers

Sweden's Public Health Agency said on Friday it was no longer recommending that children aged 12 to 17 get vaccinated against Covid-19, citing the "very low risk" for the group. The new recommendation will come into force on October 31.

Sweden to stop offering Covid jabs to teenagers

“The decision means that as of November 1, 2022 only children in certain vulnerable groups are recommended to get and thereby offered vaccinations against Covid-19,” the agency said.

“Overall we see that the need for care as a result of Covid-19 has been low among children and young people… and has in addition subsided since the Omicron variant started spreading,” Sören Andersson, head of the Public Health Agency’s vaccination department, said in the statement.

For those over 18, the Swedish recommendation is three doses, with a fourth recommended for those over 65.

The country made global headlines when it refused to implement draconian measures as other countries around the world went into lockdown.

Sweden saw a slight increase in the number of deaths during the summer, but the number is now falling.

After having a high death toll at the beginning of the pandemic, the Nordic country now has fewer deaths per capita than the European average.

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