WHO warns half of Europeans could be infected with omicron in eight weeks

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The World Health Organization (WHO), citing a projection, warns that more than half the people in Europe could already be infected with Omicron in two months. Omicron represents a tidal wave sweeping across Europe from west to east, adding to the increase in delta numbers that countries had experienced by the end of 2021, WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge said Tuesday at an online press conference in Copenhagen.

Rapid spread
Omicron is rapidly becoming the dominant variant in Western Europe and is now spreading to the Balkans, Kluge said. He refers to model calculations by the IHME research institute based on the current rate of spread.

A Jan. 8 report from the institute said, “Our models for the European region suggest that a peak of more than 12 million infections per day will be reached in mid-January – with national peaks varying considerably, with later peaks in Central Asia.” He added, “We expect more than 50 percent of the Euro population to become infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks.”

In the first week of 2022 alone, more than seven million new corona cases were detected in the European region, more than doubling in a two-week period, Kluge said. Mortality rates remain stable and continue to be highest in countries with high incidence and low vaccination rates, he said.

Omicron has been reported in 50 of 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia, he said. The WHO Europe Region extends well beyond the EU and includes 53 countries. The organization also includes eastern states such as Russia, Ukraine and countries in Central Asia.

Kluge used his first online press conference of the year to deliver three messages: First, he called on countries with no previous Omicron increase to take advantage of the remaining window of opportunity and take precautions – Omicron is spreading faster than any other previously seen variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Where Omicron has begun to spread, he said, the priority must be to avoid impact on susceptibles and minimize disruption to health systems.

Third, Kluge was concerned with keeping schools open. This is extremely important for children, he said, which is why schools should be the last place to close – and the first to reopen.

  • sources: APA/derstandard.at/picture:
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