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Europe could face third coronavirus wave in early 2021, WHO special envoy warns

Ellen Manning
·2-min read
Candidate to the post of Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) David Nabarro gestures during a press conference on January 26, 2017 in Geneva - The World Health Organization picked three finalists for the role of its next director-general, a high-stakes choice for the powerful agency described as facing an "existential crisis". (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
David Nabarro has warned that Europe could face a third wave of coronavirus. (Getty)

Europe could face a third wave of coronavirus in early 2021 if governments are too quick to lift restrictions, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert has warned.

David Nabarro, the WHO’s special COVID-19 envoy, said Europe’s response to the virus was “incomplete” and would lead to another peak of infections next year.

Speaking to Swiss newspaper Solothurner Zeitung, he said governments had: “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.”

Last month Dr Nabarro said the UK was acting too slowly to deal with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing Boris Johnson’s government of “resistance” to quick action for “political reasons”.

Watch: Europe warned to prepare for rise in COVID-19 deaths in October and November

In his latest comments he drew a comparison between Europe’s response and that of Asia, saying the former’s was “incomplete” and urging governments to resist relaxing coronavirus restrictions too quickly.

He said in Asia people are: “fully engaged, they take on behaviours 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.”

He added: “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. You wait until the case numbers are low and stay low.”

His comments come after European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said the European Union should only lift coronavirus restrictions slowly and gradually to avoid another wave of infections.

The UK government is expected to announce how the current lockdown will be lifted in England on December 2 and replaced by a strengthened three-tier system of local restrictions.

Downing Street has said this is expected to come into force when the national lockdown ends on December 2.

On Sunday an expert claimed that the coronavirus R number has fallen below one in England because of the nationwide lockdown.

Statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said the data showed that infection rates were coming down, and he predicted the R number was now below 1 across England.

Watch: What is long COVID?

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