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Coronavirus ‘Still Has Upper Hand,’ WHO Europe Head Warns As EU Nations Ease Travel Restrictions

The WHO has categorized the extremely contagious virus, first detected in India, as a "variant of concern"

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Avnika Saraf
Avnika Saraf
I am an Indian freelance journalist, ex-ACJ. I have worked with prestigious organizations in the past. My interest lies in politics, world and crime news.

BRUSSELS. Belgium: As new COVID-19 cases in Europe continue to drop, the World Health Organization (WHO) head warned the countries against the spread of more transmissible delta variant, suggesting the countries not to become complacent in their endeavor to fight the virus.

It is believed that the variant nicknamed “delta” could contribute to the virus’ revival across the globe. 

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“The fact that there’s a fast spread of the delta variant means that the virus still has the upper hand,” Hans Kluge, DW quoted WHO’s regional director for Europe, as saying.

“So, we have to be very careful about large, mass gathering events, particularly if it’s with people without masks, which still remains a hazard,” he continued. He further emphasized that the continent is “not out of the woods” even though the number of infections, hospitalization and deaths have drastically dipped.

Easing Travel Ban

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The European Union Friday added the U.S. to its “safe list” of countries. The decision will also let unvaccinated visitors from the U.S. enter Europe if they can present proof of a negative coronavirus test.

This comes after the EU Wednesday recommended its 27 member countries begin lifting travel restrictions on tourists from the United States first time since the pandemic started.

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The proposal was put forth during a meeting of permanent representatives to the bloc in Brussels.

Along with cross-border traveling, social gatherings and sports events have also been given permission to resume. Countries like Greece and Italy that are dependent on tourism to boost their economy are already welcoming American tourists.

Germany’s top public health official on Friday said urged the public to continue wearing masks indoors and get vaccinated for the delta variant is expected to become dominant in the country by the autumn. The variant accounted for nearly 10% of cases in the U.S. as of June 14.

Documents Required To Travel

For months, the EU has been working on a joint digital travel certificate for people who are vaccinated, freshly tested, or recently recovered from the virus.

The free certificates will have a QR code to allow people unrestricted movement between European countries. People carrying these certificates won’t have to quarantine or take the COVID-19 test upon arrival.

This is meant for EU citizens mainly but Americans can obtain it too by convincing the country they want to travel to that they are qualified for it and show them the required paperwork.

EU countries such as Belgium, Spain, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland have already adopted the system. The others would start using it by July 1.

The recommendation made by WHO on Wednesday is non-binding, and national governments have the authority to impose their own restrictions or add their own requirements for tourist entry. Here’s a list of documents you require to move to different places:

  • Proof of vaccination, or
  • Negative COVID test report, or
  • Document attesting recent recovery from COVID-19

Delta Variant

The WHO has categorized the extremely contagious virus, first detected in India, as a “variant of concern.” The classification variants of concern are those that are more threatening than the novel coronavirus which came into being in China in 2019.

The delta variant (B.1.617.2), which is dangerous than other SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating globally is resistant to vaccines that are available as of now.

According to the Public Health England‘s (PHE) risk assessment for SARS-C0V-2 variants, 61% of the samples sequenced are of the delta variant.

Data from Zoe COVID Symptom Study in the U.K. said the symptoms affiliated with COVID-19 may be changing owing to the new variant.

“Cough is rarer and we don’t even see loss of smell coming up in the top ten anymore,” said Prof Tim Spector, study lead, suggesting to also watch out for symptoms like headache, followed by sore throat, a runny nose, and fever.

Scottish study ‘The Lancet,’ published on 14 June noted the Delta variant is associated with double the risk of hospitalization as compared to the Alpha variant. 

Hence, WHO’s regional director for Europe suggested a gradual and cautious reopening of the economy while ensuring public safety at all costs.

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