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WHO Europe chief calls for vigilance amid rise in virus cases

European countries need to increase vigilance for new strains of the coronavirus that are more transmissible amid a rise in cases, the head of the World Health Organization's (WHO) European office said on Thursday.

Stockholm, 4 March 2021 (dpa/MIA) – European countries need to increase vigilance for new strains of the coronavirus that are more transmissible amid a rise in cases, the head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European office said on Thursday.

“Last week, new cases of Covid-19 in Europe rose 9 per cent to just above 1 million. This brought a promising six week decline in new cases to an end,” Hans Kluge of the Copenhagen-based agency said.

He noted that more than half of the 53 countries in the region have seen a rise in new infections.

“We need to suppress the spread of the virus everywhere, using what we know works,” he said, citing the need to test, isolate and trace cases, as well as continue to vaccinate.

According to the WHO office, a strain initially identified in Britain has been reported in 43 countries in the region, a strain first detected in South Africa has been found in 26 countries, while 15 countries in the region have recorded cases linked to a strain found in Brazil and Japan.

The WHO regional chief also highlighted the role women play in the health care system in the region, accounting for 84 per cent of nurses and just more than half the physicians.

Looking ahead to International Women’s Day, which falls on Monday, he noted that “health workers account for 8 per cent of global Covid-19 cases and the risk they run of getting infected is more than triple the risk of most of us.”

Five weeks ago, more than two-thirds of the 1.3 million health workers infected with Covid-19 were women, Kluge said.

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