• Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, has warned nations that are lifting coronavirus restrictions that “now is the time for preparation, not celebration.”
  • It’s true that Italy, France, the UK, and other European countries may be reporting a decline in new cases, Kluge told the Telegraph, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic has ended.
  • With the center of the outbreak having moved east toward Russia, Kluge said he is worried about a second wave of cases across Europe in the fall, urging leaders to bolster their hospital systems in the interim.
  • Kluge also warned of a coinciding “second wave of COVID and another one of seasonal flu or measles.”
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European countries may be relaxing coronavirus restrictions and reopening their economies, but the pandemic is far from over, a World Health Organization official warned.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, urged leaders to prepare for a second, more deadly wave of the infection. The disease has already sickened more than 4.7 million people worldwide and killed at least 315,822, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph published Monday, Kluge stressed that even though the number of cases across a broad swath of the continent — including Italy, France, and the UK — are falling, “now is the time for preparation, not celebration.”

The outbreak’s center has simply moved east, he said, into Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

So officials would be well served by using this lull to their advantage by bolstering local hospital systems, the Telegraph reported. Kluge hailed Singapore, Japan, and Scandinavian countries as models, saying, “They don’t exclude a second wave, but they hope it will be localized and they can jump on it quickly.”

Another point of concern, Kluge said, is that a subsequent coronavirus wave could overlap with a resurgence of other communicable diseases, according to the Telegraph.

“I’m very concerned about a double wave,” he said. “In the fall, we could have a second wave of COVID and another one of seasonal flu or measles.”

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty echoed the sentiment, using the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic as an example. The pandemic emerged in March 1918, but returned with full force in the fall, killing some 50 million people, the Telegraph said.

spain church coronavirus lockdown reopens social distancing

A group of worshippers wear face masks and maintain social distancing at a May 18 mass at Madrid’s Santa Barbara Church that reopened to the public after 64 days of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

“We know from history that in pandemics the countries that have not been hit early on can be hit in a second wave,” Kluge said. “What are we going to see in Africa and Eastern Europe? They’re behind the curve.”

Klug e’s warning comes as European nations begin to resume some semblance of a normal life.

Some German restaurants have resumed business and France has stopped requiring people to show travel permits that explain why they left their homes, according to the Telegraph.

In Spain, groups of up to 10 people can meet, bars and restaurants have reopened outdoor seating but at half their maximum capacity, small shops are back in business, and movie theaters and museums can welcome guests, albeit at a reduced capacity, BBC reported.

As of Monday, restaurants, bars, hair salons, shops, and churches in Italy can reopen their doors, so long as people maintain social distancing from each other.

But without an anti-viral drug or vaccine to treat the coronavirus, Kluge said the loosening of restrictions has to go hand-in-hand with widespread testing and contact tracing. Face masks and social distancing are also important.

“Some countries are saying, ‘We’re not like Italy’ and then, two weeks later, boom — they can unfortunately get hit by a second wave, so we have to be very, very careful,” Kluge told the Telegraph.

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