COPENHAGEN, May 20 (Xinhua) -- World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge on Thursday urged caution despite a considerable 60 percent decrease in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks in the region.
"This progress is fragile. ... Let us not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year, that resulted in a resurgence of COVID-19 and saw our health systems, communities and economies once again bear the full force of this pandemic," said Kluge during an online press conference from Copenhagen.
The warning came as the European region in past weeks has seen cases dramatically drop from 1.7 million in mid-April to just below 685,000 new cases last week, which is a 60 percent decrease in a month, according to Kluge.
He also took the opportunity to briefly address the region's concerns over the B.1.617 variant originally found in India, which he said had now been identified in at least 26 countries out of the 53 in the WHO European Region.
"Most cases have a link to international travel, but onwards transmission is occurring," said Kluge.
"We are still learning about the new variant, but it is able to spread rapidly and displace the UK variant, B.1.1.7 lineage that has become the dominant lineage in Europe."
Kluge reiterated that all coronavirus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available, approved vaccines.
Meanwhile, the WHO official expected more transmission in Europe as mobility, physical interactions and gatherings increasing in the coming months due to the easing of social measures.
To shore up the perceived fragility, Kluge re-emphasized his frequent call for the need of the region to not only redouble its efforts on testing and sequencing, isolation, contact tracing, quarantine and vaccination, but also maintain social measures.
"Neither testing nor receiving vaccines is a substitute for adherence to measures such as physical distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces or healthcare settings," said Kluge.