Omicron | A “plausible” end to the pandemic in Europe, says WHO

(Copenhagen) An exit from the COVID-19 pandemic could be looming in Europe, two years after the appearance of this disease on the old continent where Omicron could have infected 60% of the population by March, estimated Sunday the World Health Organization (WHO).

Posted at 11:42
Updated at 2:04 p.m.

France Media Agency

“It is plausible that the region is approaching an end to the pandemic,” said WHO Europe director Hans Kluge, urging caution due to the versatility of the virus.

“Once the Omicron wave subsides, there will be for a few weeks and a few months an overall immunity, either because of the vaccine or because people will be immune because of the infection, and also a drop because of the seasonality,” he said.


Hans Kluge, Director of WHO Europe

The WHO then expects “a period of calm before perhaps the return of COVID-19 towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the return of the pandemic”.

In South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first sequenced, there has been a downward trend in the number of new cases over the past four weeks.

With the same cautious optimism, the adviser to the White House on the health crisis, Anthony Fauci, judged on Sunday that a “turnaround” in the situation could be expected in the United States.

No “endemic era”

There is no question of speaking immediately of “an endemic era”, which would make it possible to treat the virus in the same way as a seasonal flu, warned the UN official.

“Endemic means […] that we can predict what will happen, this virus has surprised more than once. So we have to be very careful,” especially since Omicron has so far been dominant in countries with high vaccination coverage, Kluge insisted.

Besides the persistence of Delta, other variants could additionally emerge.

“We will resist much better, including new variants”, assured Sunday on the French television channel LCI Thierry Breton, European commissioner for the internal market.

We will be ready to adapt vaccines, especially messenger RNA ones, if necessary, [et à] cope with a virulent variant.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market

In the WHO’s European region, which has 53 countries, some of which are located in Central Asia, Omicron accounted for 15% of new COVID-19 cases as of January 18, significantly more than the previous week, according to data from the WHO. WHO.

According to projections presented by the World Health Organization, 60% of Europeans could have been infected with Omicron by 1is mars.

In the 27 member countries of the EU, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, this variant appeared at the end of November, more contagious than the Delta but less virulent, in particular in vaccinated people, is now dominant, according to the European health agency.

As for Russia, it announced on Sunday a new daily record for coronavirus contaminations for the third consecutive day, a spread due to Omicron

Evolution of public policies

With the explosion in the number of contaminations, it is now a question of modifying public policies to “minimize the disturbances and […] protect the vulnerable”, and no longer to focus only on the reduction of transmission, judged Hans Kluge.

In this context, he called for everyone’s responsibility.

“Everyone must be their own risk manager,” he summed up. If you don’t feel well, stay home, take a self-test. If you test positive, self-isolate.”

The objective is to stabilize the health situation across Europe, where the gaps in vaccination against COVID-19 are colossal, ranging from 25 to 95% of the population according to the countries of the region, which can lead to varying degrees overcrowding in hospitals.

“Stabilising means that the health system is no longer overwhelmed by COVID-19 and can continue to provide essential health services, which have unfortunately been severely disrupted in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease and vaccination,” Kluge insisted.

Now is not the time to play Russian roulette. People are still very encouraged to get vaccinated, to take a booster dose and to follow the preventive measures.

Hans Kluge, Director of WHO Europe

The city of Beijing has in this regard announced that it will screen all the inhabitants of a district on Sunday after the discovery of an epidemic focus, less than two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics in the Chinese capital.

But, illustrating the difficulty of having the measures taken to combat the pandemic accepted everywhere, on the same day, in Brussels, clashes occurred between the police and opponents of the restrictive measures, during a demonstration which brought together tens of thousands of people.

Asked also about the need for a fourth dose to reach the end of the pandemic tunnel, Mr. Kluge was cautious, noting however that “immunity increases after each inoculation of the vaccine”.

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