With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out across many countries, the world’s largest humanitarian network is once again warning that vaccines alone will not end the pandemic. People need to remain vigilant and continue to adhere to basic preventative measures that include physical distancing, wearing masks and handwashing.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“The humbling reality is this pandemic is only gaining momentum, a stark reminder that vaccines alone will not end this fight. We all need to make sure that, in our optimism about vaccines, we do not forget the dangers of this virus or the actions we all need to take to protect ourselves and each other.
“COVID-19 is still killing thousands of people every single day. We each have a responsibility to stay vigilant and to practice the preventative measures that will curb the spread.
“All people, even those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, must continue to physically distance, stay home as much as possible, wear a mask to protect themselves and their communities and thoroughly wash their hands. Patience is key, and commitment is essential. The ability to keep each other safe and healthy is literally in our hands.”
A second variant, 501Y.V2, which was recently discovered in South Africa, has been detected in at least six additional countries, and comes at a time when the African continent is in the grips of its worst-ever COVID-19 period. Over the past four weeks, Africa has experienced a continuous increase in new cases and deaths.
The IFRC is also bracing for a further surge in cases following the holiday period, which saw millions of people around the world travel and gather with relatives and friends. A proven, consistent driver of the pandemic has been the gathering of people indoors from different households without face coverings or masks. The IFRC warns that countries should be prepared to see a possible increase in infections soon.
Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health, said:
“We are very concerned about this convergence of a potential false sense of security due to the rollout of vaccines, the emergence of new variants, and the impact of holiday-season travel. Our first line of defence against the virus remains our individual behaviour. Beyond this, the ability of Governments to take swift actions based on scientific evidence is also key to slowing down the pandemic.
“Vaccines will help, but unless we all remain vigilant, and unless their deployment is accelerated across the world in a fair and equitable manner, the entire world remains at risk.”