WHO Europe: Kids in 5-14 age group show highest COVID rates

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The World Health Organization’s Office for Europe says children aged 5 to 14 now account for the highest rate of COVID-19 infections reported in the region.

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GENEVA – Children aged 5 to 14 now have the highest rate of COVID-19 infection reported in the region, the World Health Organization’s office for Europe said on Tuesday.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Europe’s regional director, also argued that the vaccine mandate should be “an absolute last resort”, adding that COVID-19 deaths are “far below previous peaks”. But he said coronavirus cases and deaths have more than doubled in the past two months in a region of 53 countries extending to Central Asia.

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He emphasized the continued threat from the wider delta variant, and noted that the new Omicron variant has so far accounted for 432 confirmed cases in 21 countries in the region.

“The delta variant is prominent throughout Europe and Central Asia, and we know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in reducing serious illness and deaths from it,” he told reporters from the WHO Europe headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. “It remains to be seen whether the latest COVID-19 variant of the concern, Omicron, will be more transmissible, or more or less severe.”

Kluge also spoke out against vaccination mandates, saying they should be an “absolute last resort” and effective only in certain contexts.

The WHO’s European region has for weeks been the global epicenter of the pandemic, accounting for 70% of cases and 61 percent of deaths worldwide, according to the UN’s health agency’s weekly epidemiological report released last week.

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David Keaton in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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