World Health Organization COVID-19 Special Envoy David Nabarro told the Solothurner Zeitung in Switzerland, that Europe was likely to see a third wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021 before a vaccine could be introduced.
“They failed to build the necessary infrastructure during the summer months after bringing the first wave under control,” Nabarro said. “Now we have the second wave. If they don’t build the necessary infrastructure, we will have a third wave early next year.”
He also said that Europe has a lot to learn from Asian countries. “We have to react quickly to the virus, in a robust and decisive way,” he said. “Especially at the beginning, when the virus is still spreading very slowly in different communities. If you react half-heartedly, the problem will get worse very quickly.”
Europe briefly experienced a drop in infection rates over the summer, but they are on the rise again. Germany, with a population of 84 million, saw the number of cases rise by 14,000 on Sunday.
David Nabarro, WHO Special Envoy for COVID-19
In contrast, Japan’s population of 120 million recorded just 2,596 new cases on Saturday. South Korea’s population of 51 million reported just 386 new cases on the same day and had only about 30,700 total confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
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Exponential vs arithmetic
A major problem, Nabarro added, was that too few policymakers understood that the virus was spreading exponentially rather arithmetically. “Exponential means the numbers could increase 8 times in one week, 40 times in two weeks, 300 times in three weeks, over 1,000 times in four weeks, and so on,” he said.
In Asia, meanwhile, the numbers are relatively low because “people are fully engaged, they are engaging in behaviors that make it difficult for the virus to do it,” Nabarro said.
“They keep their distance, wear masks, isolate themselves when they are sick, wash their hands and surfaces. They protect the groups most at risk.”
Nabarro also said Asia did not ease restrictions prematurely. “You have to wait until the number of cases is low and stay low,” he said. “Europe’s reaction has been incomplete.”
He also praised the communication between the authorities in Asia and Europe. “They have just one message: if we want our economy to be strong and to maintain our freedoms, we all need to stick to a few basics.”