The coronavirus pandemic is at a “critical point” and people need a “reality check” as restrictions are eased, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert has warned.
Dr Maria van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s technical response, told a press conference that vaccinations alone are not enough to combat Covid-19.
It comes as coronavirus restrictions were eased across the UK on Monday, with shoppers returning to high streets and drinkers visiting pub gardens in England and non-essential retailers reopening in Wales.
Dr van Kerkhove, speaking on Monday afternoon, urged caution, saying: “We need headlines around these public health and social measures, we need headlines around the tools that we have right now that can prevent infections and save lives.
“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now, the trajectory of this pandemic is growing.
“It’s the seventh week in a row where we’ve had more than 4.4 million new cases reported in the last week (around the world).
“If you compare that to a year ago we had about 500,000 cases being reported per week… the trajectory of the pandemic right now is growing exponentially.
“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 take stock and have a reality check about what we need to be doing.
“Take a look at what people are doing and how you are mixing, make sure you are doing the right steps that you can to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
“We need governments to support individuals so that the control measures in place are applied consistently and are applied in a coherent manner.
“It is vaccines but it’s not vaccines-only – it’s vaccines and what can you be doing everyday, what can you be doing to keep yourself safe and your loved ones safe.”
WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also warned that vaccines are not the “only tool” to combat coronavirus.
He added: “This pandemic is a long way from over, but we have many reasons for optimism.
“The decline in… deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.
“With a concerted effort to apply public health measures, alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months.”