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COVID-19. The risk of resurgence in Europe has become a reality

Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly COVID-19 cases for the first time in months, Hans Kluge European regional director of WHO, the World Health Organization, told a press conference, where he emphasized the important role of digital solutions.

While the European Region is reporting a decreasing proportion of global cases than earlier in the year, the Region continues to report close to 20,000 new cases and over 700 new deaths daily.

Over 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 infections have been reported from Europe.

Globally, with over 9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 400,000 deaths reported to WHO, the pandemic continues to accelerate, with a record number of new coronavirus cases reported on Sunday, with 183,020 confirmed in 24 hours.

“For weeks I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures. In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality,” Kluge warned.

 

Health care systems could be pushed to the limit

“30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe,” Kluge said.

He, however, said that it was very good news that countries such as Poland, Germany, Spain and Israel have responded quickly to dangerous outbreaks of COVID-19 associated with schools, coal mines, and food production settings that have occurred over the past several weeks.

“Where new clusters of cases appeared, these have been controlled through rapid and targeted interventions. This is very good news! Bravo to the authorities!”

“And on another positive note, several Ministers of Health have reported a change in people’s behaviour to me, namely that they are adhering to physical distancing and wearing facial masks. Bravo to the people!”

Kluge recommended that “we need to get smarter in using the evidence and the information we have from our COVID-19 surveillance systems to improve the only way we have to minimise transmission: find, isolate, test and care for every case. Trace and quarantine every contact.”

 

Protecting date and private life

WHO considers that “digital technology can play a leading role, not least to support contact tracing.”

Several European countries have released national solutions for digital contact tracing in Europe.

“Digital technologies have proved to be powerful tools to fight COVID-19. However, these same technologies have exposed us to a tsunami of information and have raised many issues around data protection and privacy,” Kluge said.

“Integrating digital health must be done carefully and wisely, in partnership with the public and patients,” the WHO European chief said.

“It’s all about trust,” Kluge continues. “Digital tools rely on public trust. Interventions must consider the privacy and security of individuals and their data. Fundamental human and gender rights must be preserved in digital environments and must not be forgone in times of a pandemic.”

In his opinion it is “the responsibility of governments to address data ownership, use, consent and protection.”

WHO is also concerned about the digital gap. In Europe  internet coverage varies from 74% to 87%

“The full potential of digital health is yet to be realized. It is about empowering people to make healthy life style decisions to create a European culture of health. Ultimately, it is about leaving no one behind,” Kluge said.

 

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