EU warns of slim window to avoid repeat of prior virus peak

There are concerns that a second wave is now unavoidable. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 24 September 2020

EU warns of slim window to avoid repeat of prior virus peak

  • EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the most recent risk assessment showed that some countries are reporting more cases now than they did during the earlier pandemic’s peak
  • More than 3 million cases have been reported in Europe since the beginning of the year, including 187,509 deaths

BRUSSELS: European Union officials urged member nations Thursday to move quickly to slow the latest wave of COVID-19 infections to avoid a repeat of the broad lockdowns that paralyzed the continent’s economy in the spring.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the most recent risk assessment showed that some countries are reporting more cases now than they did during the earlier pandemic’s peak in Europe.
“We are at a decisive moment. All member states must be ready to roll out control measures, immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks,” Kyriakides said. “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”
More than 3 million cases have been reported in Europe since the beginning of the year, including 187,509 deaths, according to figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
To control the virus’s rebound, several EU nations have imposed localized lockdowns, limited public and private gatherings again, and restricted the operation of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.
European Center for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon, noting the social impact of such moves, noted the need to maintain basic precautions such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
“Until there is a safe and effective vaccine available, rapid identification, testing, and quarantine of high-risk contacts are some of the most effective measures to reduce transmission,” Ammon said.
Her agency said in its latest evaluation of the pandemic that the level of immunity in the European population remains low, estimating it is under 15% in most of the EU and the UK
“Most of the people can still be infected,” Ammon said.
The ECDC said EU countries should emphasize curbing the spread of the virus among children and adults under age 50, making sure the public is aware that people in those categories can become seriously ill from COVID-19 as well as expose more vulnerable populations to the virus.
While some EU members have shortened their mandatory quarantine periods, the ECDC continues to recommended 14-day quarantines for people who had contact with infected individuals.
“The pandemic is far from over and we must not drop our guard,” Ammon said.


NATO says Greece and Turkey cancel military exercises

Updated 23 October 2020

NATO says Greece and Turkey cancel military exercises

  • “This is a very welcome step,” Stoltenberg said after a videoconference of NATO defense ministers
  • Turkey has deployed a gas exploration vessel under military escort into Greek waters

BRUSSELS: Turkey and Greece have agreed to cancel rival military exercises that were to have been held next week on their respective national days, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
The neighbors, while NATO members, are at loggerheads over energy drilling and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and the alliance has set up a hotline to head off accidental clashes.
“This is a very welcome step,” Stoltenberg said after a videoconference of NATO defense ministers, including Greece’s Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Turkey’s Hulusi Akar.
“These are steps in the right direction, and it helps to reduce the risks for instance and accidents.”
Greece had been expected to conduct exercises on Wednesday October 28, its Oxi Day holiday, and Turkey on Thursday, celebrated there as Republic Day.
Turkey has deployed the Oruc Reis, a gas exploration vessel under military escort into Greek waters off the island of Kastellorizo, and Greek vessels are nearby.
Addressing a news conference after two days of talks on a variety of topics, Stoltenberg confirmed he had raised the situation with the Greek and Turkish ministers.
“I will say that we had a good and constructive talks and allies expressed a strong support for the NATO de-confliction mechanism,” Stoltenberg said.
“I welcome now the fact that we have been able to see some concrete steps in that direction with the cancelation of the two exercises.”
French Defense Minister Florence Parly also hailed the decisions to cancel the military exercises, stressing the need to “respect international law and restore stability in the region.”
Stoltenberg also welcomed Germany’s diplomatic mediation in the underlying dispute.
On Thursday, he had warned that — while NATO could help keep the rival militaries apart — it would be down to Ankara and Athens to open a dialogue to resolve their long-standing differences.