WHO hopes pandemic over in two years as Europe battles rising cases

WHO hopes pandemic over in two years as Europe battles rising cases

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Geneva: The World Health Organization said on Friday that as European countries fight the rising number of new cases, the world should be able to contain the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years.

Western Europe has been enduring infection levels that have not occurred in months, especially in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, which has raised concerns about a second wave of full-scale outbreaks.

In Madrid, the Spanish capital, officials advised people in the hardest-hit areas to stay at home to curb the spread, as the country registered more than 8,000 new cases within 24 hours.

France also reported more than 4,000 new cases for the second day in a row, a number not seen since May. Metropolitan areas account for most of these infections.

However, the head of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tried to compare with the infamous 1918 influenza pandemic.

“We have a disadvantage of globalisation, closeness, connectedness, but an advantage of better technology, so we hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years,” he told reporters.

By “utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu”, he said.

The WHO also recommends that children over the age of 12 now use masks under the same conditions as adults, because increased use of masks can prevent the spread of the virus.

In the absence of a vaccine, the most important tool the government has is to restrict its population or strengthen social isolation.

Lebanon is the latest country to implement strict restrictions recently. The two-week measures starting Friday include night curfews to curb the rise in infections. At the same time, the country is still dealing with the impact of a large-scale explosion in the capital Beirut, with dozens of people Killed earlier this month.

“What now? On top of this disaster, a coronavirus catastrophe?” said 55-year-old Roxane Moukarzel in Beirut.

Officials worry that Lebanon’s fragile health system will struggle to cope with the further surge in COVID-19 cases, especially after some hospitals near the port were damaged in the explosion.

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