The Regional Director for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Hans P. Kluge, told N1 in a press conference on Thursday that he is concerned about the situation in light of the coronavirus pandemic in southern Europe and urged governments to gradually implement stricter measures.
“I am definitely concerned, and not only about southern Europe, but also across the region. Why? Because the virus is not going to wait,” he said.
Countries need to gradually implement restrictive measures,” he said, adding that this is not a call for introducing lockdowns, but gradual measures, “depending on the severity of transmissions in the community, to be stricter.”
He argued that what has been learned since March is that when governments do introduce lockdowns they need to also mitigate the “risk for collateral damage,” listing problems such as deteriorating mental health, domestic gender-based violence, loss of jobs and problems regarding care for children with disabilities.
“In countries where the governments were decisive and promptly implementing measures, the transmission has been pushed back,” he stated.
On the other hand, where governments were “hesitating,” it did not work, he said, advocating for making wearing masks mandatory and controlling social and religious gatherings.
According to a senior emergency officer at WHO's European office, Catherine Smallwood, “the whole epidemiological situation in Europe remains fragile, we can not say we’re in a stable situation across the whole region at the moment.”
But she also argued that restrictive measures introduced by governments have brought down the number of coronavirus cases and reduced the number of hospitalisations and positive tests recorded weekly.
She noted that the number of new coronavirus cases has drastically increased in Serbia and Croatia, as well as other Balkan countries. Excerpts of the press conference can be seen in the video above.