Corona pandemic: WHO anticipates an omicron wave in Europe

Status: 11.01.2022 3:43 p.m.

The WHO warns of a massive and rapid spread of the Omikron variant: In the next six to eight weeks, more than 50 percent of the population in Europe could become infected with Omikron.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects an explosive spread of the Corona variant Omikron in Europe. In the next six to eight weeks, more than 50 percent of the population in Europe could become infected with the omicron virus variant, warns the WHO. In the first week of the new year, there were more than seven million newly reported Covid-19 cases in Europe, which more than doubled within two weeks, said WHO European Director Hans Kluge at an online press conference in Copenhagen.

Omikron sweeps across Europe

Omikron represents a tidal wave sweeping across the European region from west to east and adding to the rise in delta numbers that the countries would have experienced by the end of 2021, Kluge said. Omikron is quickly becoming the dominant variant in Western Europe and is now also spreading in the Balkans.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is also recording an increase in new infections in Germany. The increase in numbers that has been visible for days is mainly attributed to the omicron spread. On Tuesday, the health authorities reported 45,690 new cases to the RKI. That’s 15,129 cases, or around 50 percent more than a week ago when 30,561 positive tests were reported. The nationwide seven-day incidence rose to 387.9 from 375.7 the previous day.

Kluge: Three messages about Omikron

Kluge used his first online press conference of the year for three messages: On the one hand, he called on countries without a previous increase in Omikron to use the remaining time window and take precautions – Omikron is spreading faster than any other previously seen variant of the coronavirus. Where the omicron spread began, the priority must be to avoid impacting the susceptible and to minimize disruption to health systems. Third, Kluge wanted to keep schools open. This is extremely important for the children, which is why schools should be the last place to close – and the first to reopen.

Variant not comparable to the flu

In view of the easing debates in many countries, the WHO also warned that the omicron variant, although on average, leads to milder disease courses, is nonetheless not comparable to the flu. On Monday, a number of countries reported staff shortages in clinics because Omikron had led to a steep increase in new infections. Medical personnel are also affected. In addition, the high number of infections ensures that more patients come to the hospital despite the milder course.

WHO Europe is responsible for 53 countries and territories not only in Europe but also in Central Asia. According to their information, 26 of these countries recently reported that more than one percent of their residents were infected with the corona virus every week. At the same time, Kluge emphasized that corona vaccinations “continue to offer good protection against serious illness and death, even with Omikron”.

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