Officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and "our actions" would determine its end.
In a joint op-ed by Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, and Batyr Berdyklychev, the global body's representative in Turkey, it was stressed that we cannot afford another rise in virus cases and related deaths.
"We were in this position last summer. When restrictions were eased too quickly in some European countries, we saw a devastating rise in cases and deaths across the WHO European Region that led us back into lockdowns,” the article said.
It warned that “although vaccination continues apace across the WHO European Region, a large proportion of the population remains unvaccinated, while highly transmissible variants of concern are circulating.”
The officials underlined that several measures have to be adopted so people can make the most of summer in a safer way, including vaccinations, safe travels, and avoiding confined and crowded settings.
The piece said that 37% of people in the European Region received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, whereas the rate of fully vaccinated people stands at 23.9%, indicating that the pandemic is not over yet, even in countries with high vaccination coverage.
“The more transmissible Delta variant is causing an increase in cases and hospitalizations across the European Region. It is therefore vital to use the tools at our disposal to prevent transmission and save lives, tailor public health and social measures to the local contexts and ensure equitable, rapid vaccination,” it read.
Hailing Turkey for its “very successful vaccination campaign,” the op-ed said Eid al-Adha, the Muslims’ Feast of the Sacrifice, was approaching along with peak summer season, therefore, vaccination and adherence to protective public health and social measures could not be overestimated.
“We are often asked when this pandemic will end. The short answer is that it is up to you. That it is in the hands of individuals and governments. We know what works; we have the evidence. Have hope. Protecting yourself and others is crucial to bringing this pandemic under control – and eventually, to end it,” the article concluded. There are 53 countries in WHO's Europe region, including Turkey.