The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is on observe to contaminate greater than half of Europeans, nevertheless it shouldn’t but be seen as a flu-like endemic sickness, the World Well being Group (WHO) mentioned on Tuesday.
Europe noticed greater than seven million newly-reported circumstances within the first week of 2022, greater than doubling over a two-week interval, WHO’s Europe director Hans Kluge advised a information briefing.
“At this price, the Institute for Well being Metrics and Analysis forecasts that greater than 50 per cent of the inhabitants within the area will likely be contaminated with Omicron within the subsequent six-eight weeks,” Kluge mentioned, referring to a analysis heart on the College of Washington.
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Fifty out of 53 nations in Europe and central Asia have logged circumstances of the extra infectious variant, Kluge mentioned.
Proof, nevertheless, is rising that Omicron is affecting the higher respiratory tract greater than the lungs, inflicting milder signs than earlier variants.
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However the WHO has cautioned extra research are nonetheless wanted to show this.
On Monday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez mentioned it might be time to vary the way it tracks COVID-19’s evolution to as a substitute use a way just like flu, as a result of its lethality has fallen.
That will suggest treating the virus as an endemic sickness, slightly than a pandemic, with out recording each case and with out testing all individuals presenting signs.
However that’s “a means off,” WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, mentioned on the briefing, including that endemicity requires a secure and predictable transmission.
“We nonetheless have an enormous quantity of uncertainty and a virus that’s evolving fairly shortly, imposing new challenges. We’re definitely not on the level the place we’re in a position to name it endemic,” Smallwood mentioned.
“It could change into endemic sooner or later, however pinning that all the way down to 2022 is a bit bit troublesome at this stage.”