Europe must act now or face a third Covid wave next year, WHO warns

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Europe that it faces a third wave of coronavirus next year if countries repeat the mistakes that led to the second wave.  

Leaders across the continent were told to wait until case rates were low to ease restrictions and build the necessary ‘infrastructure’ to fight the virus now.  

WHO special Covid-19 envoy David Nabarro predicted a third peak of the pandemic in Europe in early 2021, while praising Asia’s response to the virus. 

Suggesting that European governments must avoid a repeat of what he said was a failure to prevent the second wave, Mr Nabarro said: ‘They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months, after they brought the first wave under the control. Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we’ll have a third wave early next year.’

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Europe briefly enjoyed a decline in infection rates, but they are now surging again, as countries return to lockdown measures that battered the economy in the spring.

On Saturday, Germany and France saw cases rise by a combined 33,000, Switzerland and Austria have thousands of cases daily, while Turkey reported a record 5,532 new infections.

Mr Nabarro’s intervention comes as the UK government looks set to bring England out of lockdown as planned in less than a fortnight, despite reported case numbers still hitting around 20,000 a day.  

Elsewhere, he hailed the response of Asian countries like South Korea, where infections are now relatively low. 

He said: ‘People are fully engaged, they take on behaviours that make it difficult for the virus. They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they’re sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups.’

Mr Nabarro also said Asia did not relax restrictions prematurely.

He warned: ‘You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low. 

‘Europe’s reaction was incomplete.’

The Brit, who campaigned unsuccessfully to become the WHO director general in 2017, also criticised Switzerland’s move to allow skiing resorts to remain open in an interview with a Swiss newspaper. 

The country said skiers and boarders would be welcome on pistes with masks required in gondolas, despite other Alpine nations like Austria closing resorts. 

He said Switzerland could reach a ‘very high level of sicknesses and deaths’ as he singled out the move, which sees masks required in gondolas, despite other countries, like Austria, shutting resorts.

Mr Nabarro told Solothurner Zeitung: ‘Once the infection rates sink, and they will sink, then we can be as free as we want. 

‘But right now? Should ski resorts open? Under what conditions?’

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