European countries should brace themselves for a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections because the pandemic is not over, the World Health Organisation’s top official in Europe has said. 

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Dr Hans Kluge, director for the WHO European region, delivered a stark warning to countries beginning to ease their lockdown restrictions, saying that now is the “time for preparation, not celebration”.

Dr Kluge stressed that, as the number of cases of Covid-19 in countries such as the UK, France and Italy was beginning to fall, it did not mean the pandemic was coming to an end. The epicentre of the European outbreak is now in the east, with the number of cases rising in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, he warned. 

Countries should use this time wisely and start to strengthen public health systems as well as building capacity in hospitals, primary care and intensive care units, he said. 

“Singapore and Japan understood early on that this is not a time for celebration, it’s a time for preparation. That’s what Scandinavian countries are doing – they don’t exclude a second wave, but they hope it will be localised and they can jump on it quickly,” said Dr Kluge.

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