More than fifty percent of the European population will have contracted the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the next 6 to 8 weeks at the current rate of transmission, said the World Health Organization (WHO).
The forecast is based on a calculation carried out by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations (IHME), of the University of Washington, cited by the director of WHO-Europe, Hans Kluge.
In his first appearance in 2022, Kluge highlighted that twenty-six countries in the WHO European region (comprising 53, including several from Central Asia) have reported that more than one percent of their population is catching coronavirus each week.
Of the total number of countries in the region, 50 have already registered cases of Omicron, which is fast becoming the dominant variant in Western Europe and is now expanding into the Balkans.
“Data collected in recent weeks confirms that omicron is highly transmissible because the mutations it has allows it to adhere to human cells more easily and can infect even those who have been previously or vaccinated,” said Kluge.
“Unprecedented scale of transmission”
Vaccines continue to provide good protection against severe or fatal cases, but the “unprecedented scale of transmission” has led to an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. “That is challenging health and service delivery systems in many countries where omicron has expanded rapidly, and threatens to overwhelm many more,” Kluge said.
Health personnel, caregivers and other essential workers are bearing “the greatest burden” and are the most exposed to the virus, recalled the director of WHO-Europe, who called for more support for their well-being and mental health.
Reduce damage to vulnerable groups, health systems and essential services
Kluge urged the countries of the region not yet hit by the new variant to implement measures such as the use of high-quality masks indoors, promote full vaccination, including the booster dose; and prepare response systems that include, for example, test augmentation and that are accessible.
In countries where there is already an omicron wave, the priority should be to avoid and reduce harm to vulnerable groups and minimize disruptions to health systems and essential services. It is necessary to prioritize the access of these groups to vaccines and booster doses and to promote the deployment of tests.
Any decision to shorten the quarantine or isolation period recommended for those infected should be taken in combination with negative tests and “only if it is considered essential to preserve the continuity of critical services,” warned the WHO.
Beware of predictions, and of schools
The director of WHO-Europe recalled that the coronavirus has surprised “more than once” and that “it is not a good idea” to make forecasts, in addition to highlighting that the fundamental objective for this year is “to stabilize the pandemic.”
The head of emergencies of WHO-Europe, Catherine SmallwoodFor his part, he pointed out that “we are not at that point in the pandemic” where its end can be foreseen and that its evolution will depend a lot “on the actions we take collectively in Europe and around the world.”
More than 7 million new cases of covid-19 have been registered in the region, which comprises 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia, in the first seven days of the year, double the number two weeks earlier, the WHO noted, although mortality rates remain stable and are highest where the incidence is highest and lowest the vaccination rate.
Kluge expressed concern about the impact of Ómicron in Eastern countries, where the percentage of the vaccinated population is lower. And the director of WHO-Europe insisted on the importance of keeping schools open, which should be the last place to close and the first to reopen, for the mental, social and educational well-being of children.
Ensuring good ventilation, hand hygiene and the use of masks, as well as including teachers and other school personnel among the priority groups to receive the vaccine and the booster dose should be central aspects, according to the WHO.
With information from DW.
· In Europe, planes fly empty so as not to lose their schedules at airports to Ómicron
· Ómicron: Can my dog or cat get Covid?
COVID: Australia reaches one million infections during the pandemic
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.