Europe could face a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2021 if governments repeat the mistakes that led to a second wave this year, a World Health Organization special COVID-19 envoy said Sunday.
“[Governments] 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 newspaper Solothurner Zeitung.
“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.
The WHO official praised the crisis response in Asian countries, such as South Korea, where infections are relatively low. “People are fully engaged, they take on behaviors 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 urged EU governments to resist lifting measures too quickly. “Another element that is very clear in East Asia is that once you have brought down the case numbers … you don’t relax the measures,” he said. “You wait until the case numbers are low and stay low. You have to prepare the necessary measures to stop future outbreaks.”
Europe’s response, he added, “was incomplete.”
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen last month also suggested that some European countries were too eager to lift lockdown measures after the first wave.
“If you look back, you can see that a lot of things were done in the right direction in the first wave, but obviously the exit strategies were partly too fast, and measures were relaxed too soon,” she said last month at an online news conference with Belgian virologist Peter Piot, her special adviser on the pandemic response.