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COVID-19

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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HEALTH

Norway announces review to tackle ‘crisis’ in GP system

Norway’s government has tasked an expert committee to devise measures to improve the current GP system.

Norway announces review to tackle 'crisis' in GP system

More than 175,000 residents are currently without a GP in Norway, the government said in a statement on Thursday as it announced a broad-ranging expert review of national GP services. 

The objective of the expert committee will be to provide specific recommendations on how the GP system can be improved so that all residents have a permanent GP. The system should also be made sustainable, the government statement said.

“The current action plan (to improve the GP system) has several good measures, but they have not had the desired effect. So we have to think again, and we have to take new measures. We cannot continue on the same track and hope that the situation will resolve itself over time,” Minister of Health and Care Ingvild Kjerkol said in the statement. 

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said next year’s budget would include more funding for the GP scheme. 

“We are working in top gear to find solutions for the GP system and take the crisis with the utmost seriousness,” Støre said.

Part of the expert committee’s work will be to develop proposals for how the GP system should be funded and organised.

Problems faced by the national GP service are mounting, the government recognised in the statement. These include a lack of young doctors signing up to the GP programme, high workloads for existing GPs and recruitment problems at municipal level.

Being left on a GP waiting system and struggling to get an appointment were two common issues mentioned by The Local’s readers in a recent survey on the Norwegian healthcare system.

READ MORE: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

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