The WHO’s announcement comes as the European Union plans for reopening its borders for fully vaccinated tourists and other nonessential travelers.
The weekly number of new cases across Europe dropped to nearly 685,000 last week from 1.7 million in mid-April, the New York Times reported, Hans Kluge, the WHO’s European director as saying.
However, as regulations get relaxed, social gatherings and travel during the summer holiday season will rise, and could result in more transmission of the virus, Kluge said, adding that deadly variants spreading within the bloc remained a cause for concern.
“This progress is fragile, we have been here before,” Kluge told reporters at a news conference, advising vigilance over outbreaks “that could quickly evolve into dangerous resurgences.”
The B1617 variant, first identified in India and has been deemed a variant of concern by the WHO, has now spread to 26A countries in the European region. Kluge said that although most cases of the variant were connected to international travel, transmission of the variant was occurring within Europe, the report said.
“We are heading in the right direction, but need to keep a watchful eye on a virus that has claimed the lives of nearly 1.2 million people in this region,” Kluge said.
While vaccines had so far been effective against the Covid variants, it has only reached a small percentage of people in Europe, and that precautions like social distancing and wearing masks were still necessary, Kluge said.
“Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot be blinded by that light,” he noted.