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WHO leader warns of danger of easing lockdowns

A man reads a newspaper with the headline: 'PM in intensive care', outside St Thomas' Hospital in central London as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in intensive care fighting the coronavirus, on April 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

GENEVA (AP) -- The head of the World Health Organization's Europe office says a trend of decline in the rate of increase in new coronavirus cases does not mean it's time to relax measures aimed to stop its spread.

    Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, also said some countries "are experiencing a rapid increase in cases or a fresh surge," and called for continued vigilance. He noted measures taken in many countries to shut schools and businesses.

    "We still have a long way to go in the marathon and the progress we have made so far in fighting the virus is extremely fragile," he said. "To think we are coming close to an endpoint would be a dangerous thing to do. The virus leaves no room for error or complacency."

    He said countries that any prospect of easing lockdowns or physical distancing measures "requires very careful consideration," such as by considering if health systems are prepared.

    "Many of us are looking forward to celebrating Easter with better weather but this is not the time to lower our guard," Kluge told a video news conference from Copenhagen. "We must soldier on."

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