WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 ‘resurgence’ and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas

The World Health Organization in Europe Wednesday urged families to wear face masks during this year's Christmas family gatherings, as it warned of a "further resurgence" of Covid-19 in early 2021.

WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 'resurgence' and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas
Pedestrians wearing protective face masks check out the window in a store in Paris. Photo: AFP

The UN  agency said people should not underestimate “the importance of your decisions” and encouraged extra precaution for holiday gatherings, even within the family. 

If possible, the WHO said celebrations should be held outdoors and “participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing.”

For indoor festivities, the WHO said limiting the number of guests and ensuring good ventilation were key to reducing the risk of infection.

“It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy,” the health agency said in a statement.

The plea came as the agency noted that “Covid-19 transmission across the European region remains widespread and intense,” even though some “fragile progress” had been made.

“There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021, and we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it,” WHO Europe said.

The WHO's European Region comprises 53 countries and includes Russia and several countries in Central Asia, a region that has registered more than 22 million cases of the new coronavirus and close to 500,000 deaths.

In the last seven days, nearly 1.7 million new cases have been recorded, as well as more than 34,500 deaths.

As a second wave of the novel coronavirus is sweeping over the continent, many countries have once again introduced tough measures to curb the spread.

On Wednesday, several new measures were imposed, including the closure of non-essential shops in Germany and pubs and restaurants in Britain.

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Macron announces free condoms for under-25s in France

French president Emmanuel Macron has announced that from the beginning of January, condoms will be available for free in pharmacies for young people.

Macron announces free condoms for under-25s in France

Speaking while on a visit to Vienne in south west France, the president said: “In pharmacies, condoms will be free for 18-25 year-olds. This will begin on January 1st.

He added: “It is a small revolution of prevention.”

Since 2019 condoms have been available on prescription from doctors and midwives, with the cost reimbursed via the carte vitale health card.

However, Macron’s announcement goes a step further and makes them available on an over-the-counter basis from pharmacies, without the need for a prescription or to obtain a reimbursement via the health card.

Since the beginning of 2022, women aged between 18 and 25 have been offered the contraceptive pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other long-term contraceptives for free, while all women can now access the morning-after pill for free. 

Under-18s are already entitled to free contraception, but there were concerns that some women were stopping contraception once they turned 18 because of the cost.

The French government also launched on December 1st a new advertising campaign around AIDS – reminding people that with correct treatment AIDS patients can end with an undetectable viral load and therefore be unable to pass on the virus.

The campaign, which is appearing on billboards around France, is a play on words on séropositif (HIV positive).