The Latest: WHO warns of delta variant virus surge in Europe
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says a 10-week drop in COVID-19 cases in the region has ended, and warned that a new wave could loom unless people “remain disciplined” and more people get vaccinated.
Dr. Hans Kluge on Thursday cited a 10% increase in infection numbers over the last week because of “increased mixing, travel, gatherings, and easing of social restrictions.” He cautioned that the highly transmissible delta variant is on track to be the dominant one by August in the 53-country region.
Some 63 percent of people in the region haven’t had a first vaccine jab, he said.
“The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalizations and deaths before the autumn are therefore in place: New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake, increased social mixing,” he told reporters from Copenhagen, Denmark.
“There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we remain disciplined, and even more so when there is much less rules in place to follow, and unless we all take the vaccine without hesitating when it is our turn,” he added.
Kluge said people who want to travel and gather over the summer should continue “life-saving reflexes” like wearing masks. WHO Europe says people should make sure they get both doses of double-jab vaccines for maximum effectiveness.
Dr. Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at WHO Europe, warned governments not to lift social distancing measures amid increased transmission. She said any such lifting should be accompanied by stronger public-health measures; sharing and sequencing information on new variants; testing; and reinforcing contact tracing.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC
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— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji reported a record 431 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday as an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant continued to grow.
Health authorities have reported nearly 5,000 cases and 22 deaths since the outbreak in the South Pacific nation began two months ago.
The government of the island nation of nearly 1 million people has resisted calls for a full lockdown as leaders try to protect an economy that last year contracted by 19% as international tourism evaporated.
Health authorities say that about 9% of people getting tested for the virus are returning positive results, a figure that has been increasing and indicates the outbreak is spreading.
Despite the growing outbreak, the government announced steps to reopen retail stores in and around the capital, Suva.
Faiyaz Koya, the minister for commerce, trade and tourism, said that without a reopening plan, some stores would need to close permanently.
TUBINGEN, Germany — German vaccine maker CureVac says younger people could benefit from its coronavirus shot, following disappointing results in a broader age group.
The company said Wednesday that its vaccine is 53% effective against COVID-19 of any severity in 18- to 60-year-olds. Overall, though, CurveVac says the shot is 48% effective, based on 83 cases in the vaccine group and 145 in the placebo group.
The World Health Organization has said vaccines with an efficacy above 50% are worth using, though many of those already approved have a far higher rate.
CureVac says it has sent the data to the European Medicines Agency, which is conducting a review.
CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas says the vaccine fully protects 18- to 60-year-olds against hospitalization. He calls it “an important contribution to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the dynamic variant spread.”
BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana’s governor is lifting the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic more than 15 months after it was imposed under his predecessor.
Wednesday’s move by Gov. Greg Gianforte comes as COVID-19 case rates continue to slowly drop in Montana. Almost half the state’s eligible residents are now fully vaccinated.
Broad public health mandates such as face mask requirements and occupancy limits for businesses were previously rescinded.
Other states also have lifted emergency declarations in recent days as the public health crisis eases.
The respiratory disease has caused at least 1,665 deaths in Montana.