Countries who solely rely on the vaccine to control the pandemic are “making a mistake”, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

Speaking at a press conference, the WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “Even as vaccines continue to roll out we urge all governments and individuals to remember that vaccines alone will not keep you safe.”

He told the assembled journalists that increased reported cases in four of the WHO’s six regions; the Americas, Europe, South-East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean, were “disappointing but not surprising”.

He added: “Vaccines will help to save lives but if countries rely solely on vaccines they are making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response. For public health authorities that means testing, contact tracing, isolation, supported quarantine and quality care.”

Meanwhile, Dr Michael Ryan was asked whether it was likely the pandemic would be over by the end of 2021.

The Director of the WHO’s Emergencies programme, said: “I think it would be very premature and, I think, unrealistic to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year but I think what we can, if we’re smart, finish with is the hospitalisations, the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic.”

He explained that at the moment, the WHO’s main focus is to “keep transmission as low as possible”, before adding that “important and significant” was showing that vaccine programmes were helping to “decrease the risk of individuals being infected or passing on that infection”.

The press conference was also used to remind people to continue to socially distance, wear an appropriate mask correctly and to avoid crowds.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, who specialises in emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, added: “While we are seeing some good news with the vaccine in terms of reduction in hospitalisation and severity and potentially in transmission risk there’s still a lot to learn of these vaccines and not everybody has the vaccine so please continue to keep yourselves safe and keep your loved ones safe. We cannot allow the virus to resurge.”

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