WHO COVID envoy fears third wave in Europe, as US surpasses 12 mln cases

WHO COVID envoy fears third wave in Europe, as US surpasses 12 mln cases

WHO COVID envoy fears third wave in Europe, as US surpasses 12 mln cases

A World Health Organization (WHO) special COVID-19 envoy predicted a third wave of the pandemic in Europe in early 2021, if governments repeat what he said was a failure to do what was needed to prevent the second wave of infections.

"They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months, after they brought the first wave under the control," the WHO's David Nabarro said in an interview with Swiss newspapers.

"Now we have the second wave. If they don't build the necessary infrastructure, we'll have a third wave early next year," said Nabarro, a Briton who campaigned unsuccessfully to become the WHO director general in 2017.

Europe briefly enjoyed sinking infection rates that are now surging again: Germany and France on Nov. 21 saw cases rise by 33,000 combined, Switzerland and Austria have thousands of cases daily.

Nabarro singled out Switzerland's move to allow skiing - with masks required in gondolas - as other Alpine nations like Austria have shuttered resorts. Nabarro said Switzerland could reach a "very high level of sicknesses and deaths".

"Once the infection rates sink, and they will sink, then we can be as free as we want," Nabarro was quoted as saying by the Solothurner Zeitung. "But right now? Should ski resorts open? Under what conditions?"

Nabarro lauded the response of Asian countries like South Korea, where infections are now relatively low: "People are fully engaged, they take on behaviours that make it difficult for the virus. They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they're sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups."

Nabarro also said Asia did not relax restrictions prematurely.

"You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low," he said. "Europe's reaction was incomplete."

US surpasses 12 million cases

Meanwhile, the United States surpassed 12 million COVID-19 cases on Nov. 21, according to the Johns Hopkins University real-time tracker.

The world's largest economy currently has 12,019,960 cases and 255,414 deaths, both by far the worst global tolls. The new toll comes just six days after the U.S. crossed the 11-million case threshold.    

Cases have been surging in the U.S. at an alarming rate, forcing many cities to re-impose punishing lockdown measures.    

Health authorities have urged people to stay home for next week's Thanksgiving holiday, when Americans usually travel from coast to coast to be with their families.    

New York City has shut down schools for its 1.1 million students, while California began imposing a 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew from Nov. 21.     

Chicago - the U.S.' third-largest city - has been under stay-at-home orders since Monday.    

On Nov. 20, President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantining.    

His positive test follows infections for a string of others connected to the White House, including his father, who was hospitalized, the president's wife Melania and Trump's youngest son Barron.    

President Trump's administration has been heavily criticized for its response to the pandemic and for downplaying the dangers.    

On Nov. 16, President-elect Joe Biden expressed frustration over Trump's refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying "more people may die" of coronavirus without immediate coordination on fighting the pandemic.    

There is, however, a new sign of hope: U.S. biotech giant Pfizer and German partner BioNTech announced on nov. 20 they will seek approval to roll out their coronavirus vaccine early.