WHO chief for Europe tells countries to keep up Covid-19 quarantines
The WHO’s European director warned national governments against reducing quarantine periods for people who have potentially been exposed to the virus. He acknowledged that Covid-19 “fatigue” was setting in as the public begins to resist measures needed to control the pandemic.
Dr Hans Kluge said that “even a slight reduction in the length of the quarantine” could have a big effect on the spread of the virus – which has returned to “alarming rates of transmission” in Europe this month.
He said countries should only reduce the two-week quarantine period if it was scientifically justified. He offered to hold scientific discussions on the issue, if necessary.
WHO Europe’s 53-country region has recorded more than 300,000 confirmed cases in the last week, and more than half of the countries reported a rise of more than 10% in cases over the last two weeks, he added. Of those countries, seven had their cases jump by more than two-fold.
Such statistics should be “a wake-up call for all of us,” Kluge said.
He called for “regional coherence” and said Europe’s response has been effective when “prompt and resolute. But the virus has shown (to be) merciless whenever partisanship and disinformation prevailed.”
Europe cutting back on 14-day quarantine
Last week, France cut its standard two-week quarantine time for people possibly exposed to Covid-19 to seven days, saying people did not follow the 14-day rule anyway.
Katie Smallwood, WHO Europe’s senior health emergency officer, said the WHO recommends a 14-day quarantine period. She said several countries were considering reducing their required quarantine period – a move not endorsed by the WHO.
“We would only revise that on a basis of a change in our understanding of the science, and so far that’s not the case,” she said.
“We would really re-emphasize that our position is that a 14-day quarantine is important for patients that have been exposed to the virus,” she said.
Kluge said Europe will be able to suppress the virus again.
“In the spring and early summer, we were able to see the impact of strict lockdown measures. Our efforts, our sacrifices, paid off. In June, cases hit an all-time low,” he said. “The September case numbers, however, should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.”
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