Don’t you dare try to hug your loved ones this Christmas.
That’s the advice given this week by experts of The World Health Organization (WHO) as the world prepares for the 2020 festive season.
WHO’s chief of emergencies Dr Michael Ryan said refusing to give hugs will help to stop the spread of COVID-19 which has infected more than 1 million people worldwide in 2020.
Ryan was responding to a question during a news conference about whether hugs could be considered “close contact”.
“It’s a horrible thing to think that we would be here as the World Health Organization saying to people, ‘Don’t hug each other.’ It’s terrible,” Ryan said.
“That is the brutal reality in places like the United States right now,” he said.
“The epidemic in the US is punishing. It’s widespread,” Dr Michael Ryan added. “It’s quite frankly, shocking, to see one to two persons a minute die in the US — a country with a wonderful, strong health system (and) amazing technological capacities,” he said.
At the moment, the United Stated accounts for a third of all COVID-19 cases in the world, Ryan added. According to Johns Hopkins University, the country has recorded more than 280,000 coronavirus deaths to date.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said most transmission happens among people who tend to spend a lot of time together sharing meals and indoor spaces, in workplaces or homes.
Yesterday, the UK became the first Western nation to start administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to members of its public, in its biggest-ever immunization campaign. The UK has also promised to supply vaccines to BVI and other Overseas Territories. However, it’s not clear when this will be done.
In the meantime, WHO’s director of vaccines, Dr Kate O’Brien is warning that although vaccines might become available soon, persons should still take precautions without thinking vaccines mean an automatic end to the pandemic.
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