Despite the decline in coronavirus hospitalizations, new cases, and casualties, Dr. Ahmed al Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, called for learning lessons from Europe and Central Asia and refraining from premature relaxing of public health and social measures.
Speaking to the media at the virtual regional press briefing, he said Monday that the region has reported more than 16.4 million cases and over 303,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Although new cases and deaths have declined overall across the region, 10 countries experienced surges in Covid-19 figures in the past week, compared with the previous week, Mandhari added.
“Premature relaxing of – and lack of adherence to – public health and social measures, as well as low vaccination coverage, continue to put more lives at risk,” he stressed.
“We have observed the consequences of these actions in countries in Europe and Central Asia over the past weeks, which have been experiencing an increase in cases as a result. The total number of cases globally is also beginning to edge up again.”
In a regional study conducted across all 22 countries, WHO has identified that only 66 percent of respondents reported wearing a mask all or most of the time and only 78 percent of respondents reported often washing their hands.
Only half of the respondents reported keeping at least 2 meters away from people in public all or most of the time.
“The only certain way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is by doing it all: getting vaccinated, maintaining physical distancing, cleaning hands, avoiding crowded and closed spaces, and wearing a mask,” he said.
With more than 417 million doses administered across the region, vaccinations continue to be rolled out, and the WHO has set a global target to vaccinate at least 40 percent of the population in every country by the end of 2021.
“While there are several factors preventing countries from achieving wider vaccine rollout including inequity in access to vaccines, conflict, instability, and weak health systems, empowering communities with complete information is critical to building trust and sustaining demand for vaccines and other public health measures,” Mandhari told the media.
However, the WHO observed a high level of public acceptance of Covid-19 vaccines across the region, with 80 percent of participants in the regional survey confirming they would accept the vaccine.
Responding to a question posed by Asharq Al-Awsat regarding the concern of receiving the coronavirus and the influenza vaccines at the same time, he said that this recommendation was made by the WHO but there is no problem in getting them separately.
He further stressed the importance of receiving both vaccines.