Global health body says continued spread of Omicron across Europe poses “huge uncertainty” about pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) Senior Emergency Officer for Europe urged governments not to treat Covid as endemic, due to the risk that the virus “evolves quite quickly” and presents “new ones challenges “.
Launching the warning on Tuesday, Dr Catherine Smallwood called for continued vigilance due to the impact of the Omicron strain of Covid-19.
With Europe having seen 7 million new cases of Covid in the first week of 2022 alone, the United Nations health agency has warned that Omicron could infect more than half of Europeans in the next two months.
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Given the spread and lingering uncertainty about the trajectory of the virus, Smallwood warned of recent calls to treat the pandemic as endemic.
“We still have enormous uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quite rapidly, imposing new challenges. We are certainly not at the point where we can call it endemic ”, Smallwood said.
Concerns expressed by Smallwood over the downgrade of Covid follow a statement by Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on changing the way Covid is tracked. Citing the decline in the lethality of the virus, Sanchez suggested that Covid be tracked in the same way as the flu.
“I believe that we have the conditions to, with precaution, slowly, open the debate at the technical level and at the level of health professionals”, Sanchez said.
Smallwood’s concerns were echoed by Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, who said on Tuesday that countries are facing a “Closing the window of opportunity” to protect their health systems from being overwhelmed by Covid. His comment was triggered by the way “Omicron moves faster and wider than any variant we’ve seen. “
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