“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures. It is time right now where everyone has to have a reality check about what we need to be doing,” van Kerkhove told a news briefing Monday.
Several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in cases, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, noting that “confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures” were primary drivers.
Ghebreyesus emphasized that public health measures — mask wearing, physical distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene, surveillance, testing, tracing and isolation — work to stop infections and save lives. “It takes a consistent, coordinated and comprehensive approach,” he said.
Iran, which has the the highest number of cases and deaths in the Middle East, entered its fourth wave of the pandemic last week, the country’s health ministry said last week.
The country’s total number of Covid-19 related cases have surpassed 2 million since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 4,200 patients currently hospitalized in ICU, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said Thursday.
More than 4,200 patients are currently hospitalized in Iranian ICUs and on Saturday the government imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country.
Sao Paulo authorities justified the reopening of schools, sports events and construction stores by pointing out that occupancy rates in intensive care units in the state have fallen from 90.5% to 88.6%.
“This measure clearly shows that the effort made in recent weeks is beginning to give results,” said vice-governor Rodrigo Garcia during a news conference on April 9. But daily numbers are still very grave — on Friday alone, the state registered over 20,000 new cases.
Meanwhile, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, ICU occupancy rates are higher at 92%, but Mayor Eduardo Paes nevertheless has decided to ease restrictions, saying that, “our reality does not allow lockdown,” during a press conference on Friday, adding that shop owners and the general population suffer economically from such measures. Still, he said, “This is no time to relax.”
Europe’s third wave
In Europe, many countries are navigating in the throes of a worrying third wave, with a more contagious variant of the virus appear to be the common culprit behind the chaos in Europe.
In Germany, cases are on the rise, with healthcare workers “breaking down” and the country’s ICU bed occupancy reaching its “peak,” according to the director of the German intensive care association, who warned on Saturday that even with a hard lockdown, numbers will be rising for the next 10-14 days.
Last month, critics warned that Europe’s coronavirus restrictions have come too late and that the continents current problems can be traced back to politicians too eager to start easing.
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the urgent need for people to be vaccinated to break the third wave.
As part of “Step 2” in the country’s exit out of lockdown, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons and zoos reopened, as well as outdoor areas of pubs and restaurants.
The lifting of measures coincided with the UK reaching its Covid-19 vaccination target of offering a dose to all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable and social care workers, the British government said Monday.
Nearly 40 million vaccines have now been given in total in the UK, with adults under 50 expected to begin to be invited in the coming days.
CNN’s Marcia Reverdosa, Rodrigo Pedroso, Maija Ehlinger, Rishabh M Pratap, Vedika Sud and Esha Mitra contributed to this report.