Act now in Europe, or risk stricter COVID measures later – WHO official

With an Omicron offshoot spearheading a burgeoning COVID-19 wave in Europe, countries need to accelerate vaccine uptake and bring back measures such as wearing masks to avoid stricter measures as fall and winter approach, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official warned on Tuesday.

In an interview with Reuters, WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge urged countries to take action now to avoid overwhelming health systems as the spread of the Omicron subvariant, BA.5, gathers steam.

"There is a rise in cases ... amidst a society which is functioning almost as before," he said, underscoring the need for so-called pandemic stabilizers such as a second booster dose ahead of the expected variant-specific vaccines in the autumn, as well as the promotion of mask wearing and ventilation.

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