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'We should not be complacent' over COVID-19 rise on the continent, WHO Europe chief says

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By Rhal Ssan
WHO HQ in Geneva
WHO HQ in Geneva   -   Copyright  OMS

Many European countries are experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 infections, with the more transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.5 spreading across the continent.

Speaking to Euronews, WHO Europe Regional Director Dr Hans Kluge stressed remaining vigilant, while trying to live as normal of a life as possible.

"We should not be complacent. It doesn’t mean that people should their holidays on hold, absolutely not, but we have to protect the vulnerable, vaccinate and get a booster," Dr Kluge said. 

"In countries where there is a sharp increase, it makes sense in crowded closed settings with not good ventilation to wear a mask to protect each other."

While European health systems are not overburdened by coronavirus cases, Dr Kluge warned that a rise in cases can lead to trouble later down the line.

"We also know that there is a timeline, a couple weeks after an increase in new cases, the hospitalisations increase, but again we shouldn’t scare the people not to go on holidays but to use common sense," he explained.

But Europe also faces another health problem, often overlooked in the post-pandemic era -- that of mental health. 

With the war in Ukraine causing massive economic disruption throughout Europe and the rest of the world, Dr Kluge said that governments need to take this crisis more seriously.

"The European region has not been confronted with such a large-scale war since the Second World War." 

"And people are anxious. They are also anxious about the impact on themselves, because it is more and more difficult for people to pay for their fuel, to pay for some basic things, so the politicians have to take this very very seriously and focus on the most vulnerable on our society." 

"Because already during the COVID-19 [pandemic] we saw social fractures, and then political extremism, we have to persist and protect the people," Dr Kluge concluded.

Watch Euronews' interview with WHO Europe Regional Director Dr Hans Kluge in the player above.