LONDON – Coronavirus lockdown restrictions in Europe appear to be paying off with a dip in new weekly cases, the World Health Organization said, offering a glimpse of hope ahead of Christmas, while cases are rising in the United States.
The WHO said the new Kovid-19 weekly cases have decreased marginally from 2 million to 1.8 million in the last two weeks, ranging from school and store closures to limited social contact.
“It’s a small sign, but it’s a sign nonetheless,” WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Cluj, said in a statement on Thursday.
He said future lockdowns were “avoidable” if more people wore masks and used contact-tracing technology.
He also offered a glimpse of hope for his plans to spend the Christmas holiday season with his loved ones.
“I firmly believe that there is more hope ahead of us than the disappointment behind us,” he said. Adding, “It will be a different Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a merry one.”
Overall, according to WHO data, Europe has recorded 15.9 million Kovid-19 cases, with 359,000 deaths, accounting for 28 percent of global cases.
But the continent is certainly not out of the woods, with one person dying every 17 seconds from Kovid-19, he said. Intensive care units, especially in France and Switzerland, are near full capacity.
Health Minister Matt Hank said that in Britain, which is the highest coronovirus death-toll in Europe, England is in the midst of a second national lockdown, but “there are encouraging signs that the number of cases is starting to decrease.” “The lockdown we brought earlier this month is working.”
In France, where people must stay home in addition to buying essentials or exercising for an hour a day, there are indications that a national lockdown is working.
Data from the Ministry of Health found 21,150 new coronovirus cases on Thursday, down from 28,383 on Wednesday, while pressure on hospital arrangements was also low. The total number of confirmed French coronavirus cases now exceeds 2 million.
“The virus spreads less before lockdown. We should not reduce our efforts,” French Health Minister Olivier Vernon said at a press conference on Thursday.
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Europe improves slightly as cases in the United States continue to climb – with 11,774,814 cases confirmed, with 253,337 deaths, both figures being the highest in the world, according to NBC News data.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans not to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday next week to reduce the spread of the virus.
“We are concerned with the rapid increase in cases, hospitals and deaths,” said CDC official Henry Wallke.
California Governor Gavin Newsome imposed a stay-at-home curfew on social ceremonies and other non-essential activities on Thursday to prevent an alarming increase in infections. While a similar 10 pm-to-5 am curfew order was issued in Ohio on Thursday and will remain for the next 21 days, a Republican governor, Mike Dwain, announced separately.
New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest, spurred in-class instruction because of rising infection rates, causing some bottlenecks among parents because Mayor Bill de Blasio said the measures were necessary and temporary.
However, encouraging drug news from drug makers Pfizer and Modern each showed more than 90 percent effect this week.
WHO’s Cluj said, “While vaccines will not completely stop Kovid-19,” they represent a great hope in the war against this virus.
Reuters contributed to this report.