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Second year of pandemic ‘could be even tougher’: WHO’s Ryan

GENEVA (Reuters) – The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic could be tougher than the first given how the new coronavirus spreads, especially in the northern hemisphere, as more infectious variants circulate, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

PHILO PHOTO: WHO Health Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan in Geneva, Switzerland, October 5, 2020. Christopher Black / WHO / Handout via REUTERS

“We are entering another year of this, it may be even tougher given the dynamics of transmission and some of the issues we are seeing,”

; Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency official, said during a social media event.

The worldwide death toll is approaching 2 million people since the pandemic began, with 91.5 million people infected.

The WHO, in its latest overnight epidemiological update, said that after two weeks of fewer reported cases, five million new cases were reported last week, the likely result of a delay in defense during the holiday season, where people – and the virus – get together.

“Certainly in the northern hemisphere, especially in Europe and North America, we have seen that kind of perfect storm of the season – cold, people entering, increased social mix and a combination of factors that have driven increased transmission in many, many countries, Said Ryan.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical director for COVID-19, warned: “In some countries, the situation will get much worse after the holidays before it gets better.”

Amid growing fears of the more contagious coronavirus variant, first discovered in the UK but now rooted around the world, governments across Europe on Wednesday announced stricter, longer coronavirus restrictions.

This includes home office requirements and the closure of stores in Switzerland, an expanded Italian COVID-19 state of emergency and German efforts to further reduce contacts between people who have so far been blamed for unsuccessful efforts to get coronavirus under control.

“I am afraid we will stay in this pattern of top and trough and peak and trough and we can do better,” Van Kerkhove said.

She called for maintaining physical distance, adding: “The longer, the better … but be sure to keep your distance from people outside your nearest household.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and John Miller in Zurich; editing by Mark Heinrich

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