WHO urges Europe to stem rise of COVID-19 cases, curb mass gatherings

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization’s top emergencies expert said on Friday that European governments must take decisive action to shut down transmission of the coronavirus, including by curbing mass gatherings, to avoid more painful lockdowns.

Europe surpassed 100,000 daily reported COVID-19 cases for the first time on Thursday, after countries such as Russia and Britain saw no respite from the mounting number of infections every day in the past five.

“There are no new answers. We know what we need to do,” Mike Ryan told a news briefing in Geneva.

“It is though sad to see many countries in Europe experiencing a rapid rise in cases and governments do have to take decisive action in order to try and shut down transmission.”

Older populations and other vulnerable groups likely to suffer severe disease must be protected, he added.

Physical distancing, wearing masks, and proper ventilation remained key, Ryan said. “We need to be very, very careful with any forms of mass gatherings that bring people together at close quarters.”

The WHO on Friday reported a record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total having risen by 350,766 in 24 hours.

In all more than 36.58 million cases have been reported globally and more than 1 million people have died, according to a Reuters tally on Friday.

Ryan told the WHO’s Executive Board on Monday that the agency had submitted a list of names of scientists for a WHO-led international mission to China to look into the origins of the virus, which emerged late last year in the central city of Wuhan.

Ryan, asked on Friday about progress, said: “This is not about WHO and the Director General seeking permission from China for the list of names. We share it as a courtesy to have a dialogue around the best team, not as a means of blocking or not blocking individuals. We are ready to move very, very quickly on this.”

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