New Year, New Rules: UK Begins Post-Brexit Future

People watch a fireworks display during New Year celebrations at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang on January 1, 2021. (Photo by KIM Won Jin / AFP)

 

Britain on Friday began a new year and life outside Europe, after leaving the bloc’s single market trading rules to go it alone for the first time in nearly half a century.

Brexit, which has dominated politics on both sides of the Channel since 2016, became reality an hour before midnight, ending the UK’s 48-year obligation to follow Brussels’ rules.

Free movement of over 500 million people between Britain and the 27 EU states ended.

More rigorous customs checks returned for the first time in decades, despite the hard-fought brokering of a tariff- and quota-free trade deal.

New Year’s Day newspapers reflected the historic but still deeply divisive change, which will have repercussions for generations to come.

The pro-Brexit Daily Express’ front-page photograph showed the White Cliffs of Dover — an enduring symbol of Britishness — with “Freedom” written on a Union flag.

“Our Future. Our Britain. Our Destiny,” its headline said.

The pro-EU Independent, though, was less sure: “Off the hook — or cut adrift?” it asked, reflecting widespread uncertainty at the path the country had now chosen.

 

Frech custom offciers watch the first vehicle entering the Eurotunnel terminal post Brexit, an Estonian lorry driver, on January 1, 2021, in Coquelles, northern France. (Photo by Lewis Joly / POOL / AFP)

 

As dawn broke on 2021, attention turned to Britain’s borders, particularly its key Channel seaports, to see if the end to seamless trade and travel would cause delays and disruption.

But with New Year’s Day a public holiday followed by a weekend, and the government having announced the phased introduction of checks, few immediate problems were envisaged.

“The traffic forecast for the next few days is very light,” said John Keefe, spokesman for Eurotunnel, which transports freight, cars and coaches under the Channel.

Practical changes

From Monday, more truckers transporting goods to and from mainland Europe face the new rules, including permits to even drive on the roads leading to Channel ports like Dover.

The Road Haulage Association, an industry body, estimates that some 220 million new forms will now need to be filled in every year to allow trade to flow with EU countries.

“This is a revolutionary change,” Rod McKenzie, managing director of public policy at the RHA, told The Times newspaper this week.

Other practical changes include how long Britons can visit their holiday homes on the continent, to travel with pets, and an end to British involvement in an EU student programme.

Holidaymakers and business travellers used to seamless EU travel could face delays, although fears Britons will have to get international permits to drive in Europe were averted by a separate accord.

British fishermen are disgruntled at a compromise in the free trade agreement to allow continued access for EU boats in British waters, which has raised fears of clashes at sea.

The key financial services sector also faces an anxious wait to learn on what basis it can keep dealing with Europe, after being largely omitted from the trade deal along with services in general, which account for 80 percent of Britain’s economy.

In Northern Ireland, the border with Ireland will be closely watched to ensure movement is unrestricted — key to a 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence over British rule.

And in pro-EU Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a clear sign of a looming battle ahead for a new vote on independence.

“Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on,” she tweeted.

 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he holds a remote press conference to update the nation on the post-Brexit trade agreement, inside 10 Downing Street in central London on December 24, 2020.  (Photo by Paul GROVER / POOL / AFP)

 

‘Make the most of it’

Despite the uncertainty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is bullishly optimistic, describing the culmination of Brexit as an “amazing moment” for the country.

He vowed that post-Brexit Britain, despite being battered by a surge in coronavirus cases, would be an “open, generous, outward-looking, internationalist and free-trading” country.

“We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he added in a New Year’s message.

The divisions over Brexit, both political and social, remain deep and are likely to last for years, despite a muted end to the saga overshadowed by the global health crisis.

Opinion polls indicate that most Britons want to move on and are far more worried about the worsening coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 73,500 dead in Britain alone.

 

A man gives a welcome pack to the second vehicle entering the Eurotunnel terminal post Brexit, a Polish lorry driver, on January 1, 2021, in Coquelles, northern France. – Britain on Thursday finally severed its turbulent half-century partnership with Europe, quitting the EU single market and customs union and going its own way four-and-a-half years after its shock vote to leave the bloc. Brexit, which has dominated politics on both sides of the Channel since 2016, became a reality as Big Ben struck 11:00 pm (2300 GMT) in London, just as most of mainland Europe ushered in 2021. (Photo by Lewis Joly / POOL / AFP)

 

Johnson, who survived several days in intensive care with Covid last April, warned of tough times ahead but said a UK-developed vaccine offered grounds for hope.

But his desire for a prosperous, more globally focused Britain could yet see a resurgence of Brexit wrangling, as the country finds out what its new trading terms mean in reality.

WHO Europe To Convene Members Over New COVID-19 Variant

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The World Health Organization in Europe said Tuesday it would convene its members to discuss how to handle a new variant of the novel coronavirus discovered in the UK.

Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe said on Twitter that the organisation was closely monitoring the spread of the new variant and would “convene member states to discuss strategies for testing, reducing transmission & communicating risks,” without specifying a timeframe.

The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries, including Russia and several Central Asian nations — a region that has registered nearly 24 million Covid-19 cases and over 500,000 deaths.

Kluge said “limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info,” but cautioned that “supply chains for essential goods and essential travel should remain possible.”

READ ALSO: France Rewards Frontline COVID-19 Workers With Citizenship

Over the weekend, WHO Europe urged stronger action to contain the new strain and called on members to “increase the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses where possible and sharing of sequence data internationally, in particular, to report if the same mutations of concern are found.”

Dozens of countries from India to Argentina have banned flights from Britain in fear of the new virus strain, which is reportedly 70 percent more contagious.

According to the WHO there is currently “no evidence to indicate any change in disease severity.”

AFP

Perez Says Real Madrid Want Reform Of Club Football Competitions

Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez

 

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez on Sunday said the coronavirus pandemic had increased the need for the creation of a new elite league.

“Football needs new formulas to make it more competitive, more exciting, and stronger,” Perez told club members at the annual meeting held online on Sunday.

Perez also said that the pandemic had cost Real Madrid 106 million euros ($130 million) in lost income, but cost-cutting meant the club had still managed to make a 313,000-euro profit.

The biggest clubs have long lobbied for European competitions to be structured in a way that guarantees them a greater share of the revenue.

“This model needs a new impulse,” he said. “The impact of Covid-19 strongly demands new changes. Football has to face this new time.”

“Reforming football cannot wait and we have to get down to it as soon as possible. The biggest clubs in Europe have millions of fans spread across the world. We have the responsibility to fight for this change,” he added.

The latest plan for a Super League surfaced through a series of leaked emails and documents in November 2018 which suggested that many of Europe’s biggest clubs were working on plans for a 16-team Super League to kick off as early as 2021.

When Josep Maria Bartomeu stood down as president of Real’s great rivals Barcelona in October he called for “a future European Super League” which “would guarantee the financial stability of the club”.

UEFA, the governing body of European football, immediately reiterated its “strong opposition” to the idea.

In early December, British daily The Times reported that UEFA was working on a Champions League reform plan that would see all sides in the competition compete in one league and play 10 different opponents, selected by a draw.

The format dubbed the “Swiss system” is designed to avoid meaningless matches in the group stage.

Real’s members approved a budget for this season of 617 million euros, down from the 822.1 million euros last season.

Perez said the club planned to ask executives, players and coaches to continue the pay cut they agreed last season.

“The management we’ve been carrying out all these years has allowed us to maintain a very solvent financial position which, in light of this immense crisis we are living through as a result of the pandemic, has allowed us to navigate serenely through what is a difficult situation,” Perez said.

“The reality is that all big football clubs are suffering this significant financial blow and we’re not immune to it either.”

AFP

WHO Europe Urges Stronger Action To Contain New COVID-19 Strain

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The World Health Organization is calling on its members in Europe to step up measures against coronavirus in the face of the new variant circulating in Britain, its European branch said Sunday.

Outside Britain, nine cases of the new strain have been reported in Denmark, as well as one case in the Netherlands and another in Australia, according to the WHO.

“Across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches,” a spokeswoman for WHO Europe told AFP.

The UN agency urged its members worldwide to “increase the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses where possible and sharing of sequence data internationally, in particular, to report if the same mutations of concern are found,” she said.

Several European countries decided Sunday to suspend all flights from Britain after the discovery of the new strain which London said was “out of control”.

READ ALSO: Countries Ban UK Flights As Britain Says New COVID-19 Strain ‘Out Of Control’

The WHO noted “preliminary signs that the variant may be able to spread more easily between people” and “preliminary information that the variant may affect (the) performance of some diagnostic assays (tests).”

It said it had “no evidence to indicate any change in disease severity, but this is also under investigation.”

Last week, Europe has become the first region in the world to pass 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic broke out a year ago, killing more than 1.6 million worldwide and pitching the global economy into turmoil.

Countries are shutting down their economies with restrictions again in a bid to rein in the virus.

AFP

Europe First Region To Pass 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths

File photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP.

 

Europe became the first region in the world on Thursday to pass the milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths, according to an AFP tally based on official sources shortly before 1500 GMT.

The 52 countries and territories of the European region counted at least 500,069 deaths — ahead of Latin America and the Caribbean on 477,404, the United States and Canada (321,287), Asia (208,149), the Middle East (85,895) and Africa (57,423).

Europe has once again become the epicentre of the pandemic since October — alongside the United States — after having already been the focus of global attention in March-April.

Almost 37,000 people have died in Europe over the past seven days, the highest weekly toll since the start of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, 6,800 deaths were recorded in 24 hours — the highest-ever figure.

Five countries account for more than half of the deaths in Europe: Italy (66,537 deaths), the United Kingdom (65,520), France (59,361), Russia (49,151) and Spain (48,596).

Belgium remains the country with the highest number of deaths in relation to its population, with 158 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Italy (110), Bosnia-Herzegovina (107), Slovenia and Northern Macedonia (105).

READ ALSO: US To Revise COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance After Allergic Reactions

The European countries with the most new deaths over the last seven days are Italy (4,798 deaths), Russia (3,846), Germany (3,495), the United Kingdom (2,954), Poland (2,754) and France (2,713).

– ‘High risk’ of resurgence –

Since the beginning of October, Europe has also been the region with the most new contaminations each day.

Last week, more than 243,000 new daily cases were recorded there on average — almost a third of all cases worldwide.

However, the spread seems now to be slowing: the average number of new daily cases is almost stable compared to the previous week.

The grim milestone in Europe comes a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a “high risk” of a resurgence in the region at the beginning of 2021.

Worldwide, at least 1.65 million people have died from Covid-19 and more than 74 million cases have been diagnosed, according to AFP’s count.

AFP

EU Intensifies Fight Against Disinformation

European Union, Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and technology

 

The EU on Thursday announced plans to step up the fight against disinformation in Europe at a time when anti-vaccine content is spreading, fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Commission also plans to regulate political advertising and to better protect journalists as part of its Democracy Action Plan.

“Disinformation is not a trivial thing… We are speaking about really dangerous attacks,” EU commission vice-president Vera Jourova told AFP.

The plan by the EU executive intends to strengthen its existing code of conduct against disinformation, which was launched in 2018.

It was signed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and in June 2020 by TikTok, as well as players in the advertising sector.

But the EU believes self-regulation is no longer adequate and the new measures will coincide with the much-anticipated Digital Services Act, to be proposed by the commission on December 15.

The commission, which has already denounced campaigns allegedly launched by Russia and China linked to the pandemic, is seeking the power to impose financial penalties on foreign agents.

READ ALSO: Former US Presidents Ready To Publicly Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

It also wants to have a role in helping member states coordinate their response to disinformation attacks by foreign actors.

The EU executive also wants more transparency from the platforms on the sources of disinformation, their algorithms and more access to data for researchers.

Campaign group Avaaz said the plan could be ground-breaking if the platforms are held accountable with clear objectives and oversight.

“Or it could remain an ineffective declaration of intent,” warned Avaaz campaign manager Luca Nicotra, if the platforms continue to report based on indicators they choose themselves.

The commission also said it would propose new legislation to regulate political advertising next year.

“We want the political advertising to be as transparent as possible, so that I, as a voter, know who is sending me this message, who pays for it, what’s the purpose,” Jourova said.

AFP

COVID-19 Cases In Europe Exceed 12 Million

A nurse tends to a patient in an intensive care unit set up for those infected with the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, at the Centre Hospitalier de l'Europe in Le Port-Marly, near Paris on November 4, 2020.  Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
A nurse tends to a patient in an intensive care unit set up for those infected with the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Europe in Le Port-Marly, near Paris on November 4, 2020. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

More than 12 million cases of the new coronavirus have been recorded in Europe, according to a tally compiled by AFP from health authority figures at 1600 GMT Friday.

The region of 52 countries is the hardest-hit zone in the world in terms of infections, ahead of Latin American and the Caribbean with 11.5 million cases and Asia with 10.9 million.

Almost half of the 12 million cases in Europe are in four countries: Russia with 1,733,440, followed by France (1,601,367), Spain (1,306,316) and the United Kingdom(1,123,197).

 

AFP

Slight Fall In German Unemployment On Economic Rebound

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 20, 2020 shows a general view of Omsk Emergency Hospital No 1 where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was admitted after he fell ill in what his spokeswoman said was a suspected poisoning. (Photo by Yelena LATYPOVA / AFP)

 

German unemployment fell slightly in September, official data showed Wednesday, as Europe’s largest economy showed further signs of recovery following the initial hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate ticked down to 6.3 percent in September, from 6.4 percent in August, the BA federal labour agency said.

“The impact of the corona pandemic on the labour market is still clearly visible. However, there are slight signs of improvement,” said the BA’s Daniel Terzenbach.

Coronavirus lockdowns brought the economy to a halt initially but as factories and businesses have returned to work, sentiment has improved.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said recently that Germany was on track for a “V-shaped” recovery, signalling a strong upswing in the economy after a considerable decline in earlier in the year.

Government-backed short-time work schemes, called “Kurzarbeit” in German, have softened the blow, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The number of people in short-time work fell in September to 4.2 million from a peak in April of 5.95 million, the BA agency said, although both numbers are considerably higher than at the height of the financial crash in 2009.

Before the coronavirus struck, German joblessness had hovered at a record low of around five percent.

But prospects may darken as the country moves into the colder autumn and winter months and fears grow about a recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday announced new measures to tackle the increase, including restrictions on parties and family gatherings.

“Unemployment should fall by the end of the year,” said Fritzi Koehler-Geib, economist at Germany’s public investment bank KfW.

“However, we can assume that the number of infections will rise again in the autumn. This could lead to a further slowdown in the economic recovery.”

AFP

EU Urges New Measures To Mitigate Virus Second Wave

 

A logo for the European Union

 

The European Commission urged EU members states Thursday to better explain and enforce social distancing and hygiene rules to halt a dangerous new wave of coronavirus infections.

Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “In some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March. This is a real cause for concern.

“All member states need to roll out measures immediately and at the right time at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks.”

Europe has now had more than five million coronavirus cases, and several countries have begun reimposing local lockdown rules to head off a return to uncontrolled spread.

The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year, but cases of new infections are soaring once again in many areas.

But Kyriakides, whose office has sought to coordinate the response across the 27 member states, warned that some areas had clearly begun to lift restrictions too soon.

“What this means, to be very clear, is that the control measures taken have simply not been effective enough or not being enforced or followed as they should have been,” she said.

“We cannot lower our guard. This crisis is not behind us. Moreover, winter is the time of the year for more respiratory illnesses, including seasonal influenza.”

And she warned: “Today we’re here to call on everyone to act decisively… it might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”

Kyriakides said that member state governments would have to fight misinformation about the virus and reach out to young people to head off protests and conspiracy theories.

And she warned they will have to act quickly to prevent a need for a return to generalised lockdowns, which she said would hurt the economy, education and the mental health of the public.

AFP

Europe COVID-19 Cases Pass Five Million

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 1, 2020 a health professional works at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated, at the Santa Casa hospital in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. (Photo by Douglas MAGNO / AFP)

 

Europe has recorded more than five million coronavirus infections since the first cases appeared in China in December, according to a report by AFP from official sources on Wednesday at 1100 GMT.

A total of 5,000,421 cases have now been registered, of which more than half were in Russia (1,122,241 infections, 19,799 deaths), followed by Spain (682,267/30,904), France (502,541/31,416) and the United Kingdom (403,551/41,825). Europe has recorded 227,130 deaths.

More than 380,000 new cases have been reported in the past week, the highest number in the region since the start of the pandemic.

The rise in infections can be partly explained by the sharp increase in testing in countries including France, where more than a million tests are now carried out every week. Despite the increase, many less serious or asymptomatic cases probably remain undetected.

AFP

WHO Warns Of ‘Alarming’ COVID-19 Spread In Europe

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of “alarming rates of transmission” of Covid-19 across Europe and cautioned against shortening quarantine periods as countries in the region scrambled to find ways to reduce infections without resorting to new lockdowns. 

The WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said a September surge — Europe set a new record last week, with some 54,000 cases recorded in 24 hours — “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.”

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he told an online news conference from Copenhagen.

Across Europe, governments are battling to contain the fresh spike in cases, while wanting to avoid inflicting fresh damage on their economies and imposing broad new restrictions on their virus-weary populations.

In Britain, new measures will take effect Friday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that pubs may have to close earlier to help avoid a “second hump” of coronavirus cases.

Residents of northeast England, including the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, will no longer be allowed to meet people outside their own homes or immediate social circles.

The government, which is facing criticism over a lack of testing capacity, imposed rules across England on Monday limiting socialising to groups of six or fewer, as daily cases reached levels not seen since early May.

Britain has been Europe’s worst-hit country with nearly 42,000 deaths.

The city of Madrid meanwhile backtracked on a plan for targeted lockdowns and said it would instead move to “reduce mobility and contacts” in areas with high infection rates.

Austria announced that private indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people, including all parties, private events and meetings indoors.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had warned earlier this week that the Alpine nation was entering a second wave of infections.

Outside of Europe, Israel is set to be the first developed country to enforce a second nationwide shutdown, to begin on Friday afternoon.

Its government called for hundreds of its citizens who are blocked on the Ukraine-Belarus border to return home.

Around 2,000 Hasidic Jew pilgrims, mainly from the US, Israel and France, are massed at the border which has been closed by Ukraine for most of this month to prevent the spread of the virus.

The pilgrims were hoping to reach the city of Uman for the Jewish New Year this weekend.

 Quarantine guidance

In further comments on Thursday, the WHO Europe said it would not change its guidance for a 14-day quarantine period for those exposed to the virus.

The recommendation is “based on our understanding of the incubation period and transmission of the disease. We would only revise that on the basis of a change of our understanding of the science,” WHO Europe’s senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said.

France has reduced the recommended length for self-isolation to seven days, while it is 10 days in the UK and Ireland. Several more European countries, such as Portugal and Croatia, are also considering shorter quarantines.

Elsewhere, a study released by Oxfam found that rich nations have already bought up over half the promised Covid-19 vaccine stocks.

“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.

Drugs companies are racing to produce an effective jab to counter a virus that has now killed more than 940,000 people around the world and infected almost 30 million.

The five leading vaccine candidates currently in late-stage trials will be able to supply 5.9 billion doses, enough to inoculate about three billion people, Oxfam said.

Some 51 per cent of those jabs have been snapped up by the wealthy world, including the United States, Britain, the European Union, Australia, Hong Kong and Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel.

The remaining 2.6 billion have been bought by or promised to develop countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.

As tragedies multiply, governments face legal action from citizens for alleged response failures.

A French association of Covid-19 victims plans to file a legal complaint against Prime Minister Jean Castex over France’s handling of the pandemic, its lawyer said.

The 200-member group accuses the government of “playing it by ear” in its response, lawyer Fabrice de Vizio told AFP.

In China, however, bereaved relatives have had their lawsuits abruptly rejected while dozens of others face pressure from authorities not to file, according to people involved in the effort.

The families accuse the Wuhan and Hubei provincial governments of concealing the outbreak when it first emerged there late last year, failing to alert the public and bungling the response.

AFP

WHO Warns Of ‘Alarming’ COVID-19 Transmission Rates Across Europe

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The World Health Organization warned Thursday of “alarming rates of transmission” of COVID-19 across Europe and cautioned countries against shortening quarantine periods.

The WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said the number of coronavirus cases seen in September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.”

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he told an online press conference from the Danish capital Copenhagen.

The health body also said it would not change its guidance calling for a 14-day quarantine period for anyone exposed to the novel coronavirus.

“Our quarantine recommendation of 14 days has been based on our understanding of the incubation period and transmission of the disease. We would only revise that on the basis of a change of our understanding of the science,” WHO Europe’s senior emergency officer Catherine Smallwood said.

In France for instance, the recommended length for self-isolation in case of exposure has been reduced from 14 to seven days.

It is 10 days in the UK and Ireland, and several other European countries, such as Portugal and Croatia, are currently considering reducing their recommendations.

“Knowing the immense individual and societal impact even a slight reduction in the length of quarantine can have… I encourage countries of the region to make scientific due process with their experts and explore safe reduction options,” Kluge said, adding that the “concept of quarantine must be protected” and “continuously adapted.”

– COVID ‘fatigue’ –

The 53 member states of WHO Europe have recorded nearly five million cases of Covid-19 and more than 227,000 related deaths, according to the organisation’s own figures.

The number of daily cases recorded is currently between 40,000 and 50,000, comparable to a daily peak of 43,000 on April 1 — although testing in many countries has increased considerably.

A new record was set on September 11, with some 54,000 cases recorded in 24 hours.

Following the introduction of strict measures in many countries around Europe, cases hit an all-time low in June, Kluge stressed.

“If you lift the pressure from the virus, naturally you’re going to see this increase,” he said.

However, noting reports that Europeans were experiencing COVID “fatigue”, he said that rather than returning to lockdowns authorities ought to “focus on reducing harm, where and when possible.”

“Engage the youth in finding new and safe ways to be social,” Kluge said.

AFP