“As school holidays approach, we must also acknowledge that children contaminate their parents and grandparents at home, with a 10 times increased risk for these adults to develop severe disease, be hospitalized or die when non-vaccinated,” he said. “The health risks extend beyond the children themselves.”

Children in the 5 to 14 age group now account for the highest rates of reported Covid-19 infections in Europe, the World Health Organization said today, as it’s director for Europe urged countries in the region to “protect children and the schools.” Dr. Hans Kluge said the incidence of COVID-19 was two to three times higher among young children than the average population in some parts of the continent, AP reports.

While warning governments to protect children as coronavirus cases and deaths have more than doubled in the last two months, Kluge said vaccine mandates should be “an absolute last resort,” because COVID-19 deaths remain “significantly below previous peaks.”

The widespread delta variant continues to be the cause of most Covid infections in Europe, said Kluge. Despite the headlines it has garnered, Kluge said the new omicron variant has so far accounted for only 432 confirmed cases in 21 countries in the 53-country European region.

“We know that the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in reducing severe disease and deaths from it,” he told reporters from WHO Europe headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. “It is yet to be seen how and whether the latest COVID-19 variant of concern, omicron, will be more transmissible, or more or less severe.”

“As school holidays approach, we must also acknowledge that children contaminate their parents and grandparents at home, with a 10 times increased risk for these adults to develop severe disease, be hospitalized or die when non-vaccinated,” he said. “The health risks extend beyond the children themselves.”

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