WHO envoy warns of third Covid wave in Europe in early 2021

The World Health Organisation has warned Europe to expect a third wave of coronavirus infections next year due to its premature lifting of restrictions.

WHO envoy David Nabarro said the “missed opportunities” by European countries to prevent a second wave may now lead to a third in early 2021.

He has predicted a third wave of the pandemic if governments repeat what he said was a failure to do what was needed to prevent the second wave of infections.

“They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months, after they brought the first wave under the control,” he told Swiss journalists.

“Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we’ll have a third wave early next year.”

On Saturday, Germany and France saw cases rise by a combined 33,000, Switzerland and Austria have seen thousands of cases daily, and Turkey reported a record 5,532 new infections.

Mr Nabarro singled out Switzerland’s move to allow skiing – with masks required in gondolas – while other Alpine nations such as Austria have closed resorts.

He said Switzerland could reach a “very high level of sicknesses and deaths”.

“Once the infection rates sink, and they will sink, then we can be as free as we want,” he told Swiss newspaper Solothurner Zeitung. “But right now? Should ski resorts open? Under what conditions?”

Mr Nabarro has lauded the response of Asian countries like South Korea, where infections are now relatively low.

“People are fully engaged, they take on behaviours that make it difficult for the virus,” he said.

“They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they’re sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups.”

Also, Asia did not relax restrictions prematurely, he said.

“You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low,” he said. “Europe’s reaction was incomplete.”

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline tougher localised restrictions to come into force once England’s national lockdown is lifted on December 2.

France has announced a three-stage lifting of restrictions, starting with a first easing “around” December 1, followed by a second one at Christmas and a third from January.

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