WHO warns that Christmas celebrations could turn into tears

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The World Health Organization warned on Friday that Christmas celebrations could turn to tears if people don’t stay on guard against COVID-19 during the holiday season.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic was rising and urged people to think very carefully about their plans for the Christmas season.

“The holiday season is a time to relax and celebrate, but … the celebration can quickly turn to sadness if we don’t take the proper precautions,” he told a news conference.

“As you prepare to celebrate over the next few weeks, please consider your plans carefully. If you live in an area with high transmission, take every precaution to keep yourself and others safe.

“That might be the best gift you could give: the gift of health.”

Tedros said there has been a 60 percent increase in deaths from respiratory diseases worldwide over the past six weeks.

However, some continents are seeing a larger increase in the death toll than others, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical leader on COVID-19.

He said there had been a nearly 100 percent increase in the number of deaths per week in the WHO Europe region over the past six weeks, a 54 percent increase in the Americas and a 50 percent increase in Africa.

“This virus is still circulating. Most of the world is still at risk,” he said.

Billions of doses assured

Meanwhile, Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, said the virus had not yet settled into a predictable pattern.

“The situation worldwide remains very unstable from an epidemiological point of view,” he said.

After Britain began rolling out public vaccines against the new coronavirus this week, Tedros said that producing safe and effective jabs against a disease that was completely unknown a year ago was an “astonishing scientific achievement.”

He said that nearly 1 billion doses of three candidate vaccines had been secured as part of the COVAX installation.

The WHO-led scheme to pool risk and reward between rich and poor countries is a global attempt to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines and buy and distribute them evenly regardless of wealth.

Some 189 countries and economies agree to the plan, which aims to ensure vaccines for 20 percent of the population in each country by the end of next year.

“More deals will be announced in the near future,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2021, WHO Senior Adviser Bruce Aylward said there was light at the end of the “long tunnel.”

“There is no reason for us to see the same epidemic next year because we know how to beat this disease,” he said.

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© 2020 AFP

Citation: WHO warns that Christmas celebrations could turn into tears (2020, December 11) Retrieved December 11, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-12-christmas-celebrations.html

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