‘Twindemic’: EU officials warn of flu & coronavirus mix, tell governments to keep their guard up

European Union officials have urged member states to do everything possible to slow the fresh wave of Covid-19 infections as the region’s annual flu season begins, in order to avoid new lockdowns.

“This crisis is not behind us. We are at a decisive moment,” EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. As winter approaches, she warned of the risk of a potentially lethal “twindemic of Covid-19 and the flu.”

Kyriakides urged governments to encourage people to get seasonal flu vaccines and adhere to social distancing measures to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring,” she said.

The updated risk assessment regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday, says that case “notification rates have increased steadily across the EU and the UK since August.”

At the same time, seasonal flu viruses cause between four and 50 million infections each year across the European region, and an estimated 15,000 to 70,000 Europeans die each year from causes linked to flu, according to the ECDC.

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“Today’s new risk assessment clearly shows us that we cannot lower our guard,” Kyriakides said.
ECDC Director Andrea Ammon commented on the worrying increase in the number of Covid-19 cases detected in Europe, noting: “Until there is a safe and effective vaccine available, rapid identification, testing, and quarantine of high-risk contacts are some of the most effective measures to reduce transmission.”

Swedish PM Stefan Lofven also said on Thursday that the coronavirus situation in Europe is worsening. “In Sweden, the situation is comparatively more stable, but we also see signs that the number of infections is increasing in certain areas in our country,” Lofven noted. “That’s worrying. It requires that we tighten our behavior.”

The PM called on Swedes to adhere to the guidelines for social distancing and good hygiene. Sweden’s response to the pandemic is often singled out, as the country has not imposed a general lockdown.

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