The World Health Organization Europe chief Thursday said three weeks of declining cases and more than 200 candidate COVID-19 vaccines under development do not mean the pandemic is over as the region still has 40% of global cases.

Speaking from the WHO’s Europe headquarters at a virtual news conference, Dr. Hans Kluge said: “The promise of a vaccine is great, but its full potential will not be realized without strong preparedness and community acceptance.”

“There have now been over 19 million cases and over 427,000 deaths reported in the WHO European region, with over 4 million more cases in November alone,” said Kluge.

“With more than 200 candidate COVID-19 vaccines under development, the future looks brighter. That is why I welcome news of the interim results of several candidate vaccines in recent weeks,” said Kluge.

He said as of Thursday, more than 50 candidate vaccines are in human trials.

“The more candidates we have, the more opportunities for success. Vaccines, combined with other public health measures, bring the end of an acute phase of the pandemic and the rebuilding of economies within reach,” he said. “But let us also be clear, the vaccine is not here today,” said Kluge.

He said people in the region must remain vigilant “to maintain this progress to protect ourselves, over loved ones and our health workforce.”

Last week, for the third consecutive week, the number of new cases reported in the European region declined by 13%.

“But despite this reduction, the region still accounts for 40% of new global cases and 50% of new global deaths, as almost half of the countries within the region continue to show an increasing trend,” said the WHO regional chief.

“In week 48 alone, over 35,000 new deaths were reported from across the region,” he added.

“Whilst we are seeing a slight decrease in the number of cases in Western Europe, this does not mean the entire WHO European region faces an improvement in the epidemiological situation,” he said.

The resurgence is moving eastward, with the hardest-hit countries now in central and southern Europe.

“These reports are of grave concern, a stark reminder of the fact that the vast majority of us remain susceptible to the virus. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to practice basic protective behaviors such as mask-wearing,” said Kluge.

Globally, there are more than 64.6 million COVID-19 cases and almost 1.5 million deaths, according to the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

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