The WHO’s David Nabarro issued the gloomy warning, saying a third wave of the coronavirus, which has killed 1.39 million people worldwide, could strike again if governments repeat what he said was a failure to do what was needed to prevent the second wave of infections. He said Europe had “missed an opportunity” to get the first wave and then the second wave under control due to an “incomplete” response to the disease.
In an interview with Swiss newspapers, he said: “They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months after they brought the first wave under the control.
“Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we’ll have a third wave early next year.”
Europe briefly enjoyed sinking infection rates that are now surging again with countries, including the UK, in nationwide lockdowns to stem the virus.
Germany and France on Saturday saw cases rise by 33,000 combined, Switzerland and Austria have thousands of cases daily, while Turkey reported a record 5,532 new infections.
Mr Nabarro singled out Switzerland’s move to allow skiing – with masks required in gondolas – as other Alpine nations like Austria have shuttered resorts.
He warned Switzerland could reach a “very high level of sicknesses and deaths”.
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“They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate when they’re sick, wash hands and surfaces. They protect the most endangered groups.”
He said Asia did not relax restrictions prematurely.
Mr Nabarro added: ”You must wait until case numbers are low and stay low. Europe’s reaction was incomplete.”
His shocking warning comes despite hopes for life to go back to normal following news of two new vaccines.
Britain is on track to make COVID-19 vaccines widely available by next spring after the shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca was up to 90 percent effective in trials.
Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University vaccine group that developed the drug, hailed an “exciting day” and added: “This means we have a vaccine for the world”.
The vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 when it was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later, according to data from late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil. No serious safety events were confirmed, the company said.
Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration has signalled it is likely to approve in mid-December the distribution of the vaccine made by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech.