More than 50% of population in Europe will be infected with Omicron in next 6-8 weeks, warns WHO

The World Health Organization said that fifty of the 53 countries in Europe and central Asia have now reported cases of the Omicron variant.

More than 50% of population in Europe will be infected with Omicron in next 6-8 weeks, warns WHO

New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday (January 11, 2022) warned that more than 50% of the population in Europe will be infected with the Omicron variant in the next 6-8 weeks. 

"We have entered 2022 with the countries of Europe and Central Asia still under intense pressure from COVID-19. Today, the Omicron variant represents a new west to east tidal wave sweeping across the Region, on top of the Delta surge that all countries were managing until late 2021," Hans Henri P Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in a statement.

He added that the Region saw over 7 million newly reported cases of COVID-19 in the first week of 2022, more than doubling over a 2-week period.

"As of 10 January, 26 countries report that over 1% of their population is catching COVID-19 each week. Mortality rates remain stable and continue to be highest in countries with high COVID-19 incidence, combined with lower vaccination uptake," he informed.

Kluge stated that fifty of the 53 countries in Europe and central Asia have now reported cases of Omicron and that it is quickly becoming the 'dominant variant' in western Europe and is now spreading in the Balkans.

"At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the Region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6–8 weeks," he added.

Omicron variant highly transmissible 

The WHO Regional Director for Europe said that the data collated in recent weeks confirms that Omicron is highly transmissible – because the mutations it has enabled it to adhere to human cells more easily, and it can infect even those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.

He, however, reiterated that the currently approved coronavirus vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death, including for Omicron.

"But because of the unprecedented scale of transmission, we are now seeing rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. It is challenging health systems and service delivery in many countries where Omicron has spread at speed and threatens to overwhelm in many more," he added. 


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