Europe Could Be Headed 'A Kind Of Pandemic Endgame': WHO Regional Director
He although emphasised that it was yet too early to declare Covid-19 an endemic and warned that because Omicron has expanded so widely, more variants may potentially develop.
While the global coronavirus cases crossed the 350 million mark, the World Health Organization’s European director said that the Omicron variant has shifted the Covid-19 pandemic into a new phase and may bring it to an end in Europe.
The WHO director Hans Kluge said during an interview that “it's plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame”, while adding that Omicron could infect 60 per cent of Europeans by March this year.
According to him, there will be a “global immunity” for quite some weeks and months, either due to the vaccination or because people have immunity caused by the infection and also reduced seasonality, once the current Omicron outbreak in Europe declines. According to AFP, he also said: "We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back."
Top American scientist Anthony Fauci also expressed similar hope. He said that "things are looking good," with Covid-19 cases dropping "rather sharply" in some parts of the United States. While cautioning against overconfidence, he stated "I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country", if the current drop in the cases in areas such as the United States northeast continues.
Last week, the WHO regional office for Africa reported that Covid-19 infections had dropped in the region, and mortality was on the decline for the first time since the virus's Omicron-dominated fourth wave peaked.
Kluge, on the other hand, emphasised that it was yet too early to declare Covid-19 an endemic and warned that because Omicron has expanded so widely, more variants may potentially develop.
He said, "There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means...that it is possible to predict what's going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once so we have to be very careful."
According to the EU health agency ECDC, Omicron is now the dominant variant in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA, or Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein). Since the variant's rapid spread across Europe, Kluge believes the emphasis should be on "minimising disruption of hospitals, schools, and the economy,” as well as putting enormous efforts on safeguarding the vulnerable, rather than methods to prevent transmission.
The aim, according to Kluge, was to stabilise the situation in Europe, where vaccination rates range from 25 to 95 per cent of the population, putting varying degrees of strain on hospitals and the healthcare system.
"Stabilising means that the health system is no longer overwhelmed due to Covid-19 and can continue with the essential health services, which have unfortunately been really disrupted for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and routine immunisation," he added.
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