More than half of Europe could catch Covid-19 in two months, WHO expert warns

Record Covid-19 circumstances have put Europe below elevated stress this winter, with some international locations scaling up restrictions and others, like Austria, Greece and Italy, saying new vaccine necessities.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, instructed a digital information convention that European and Central Asian international locations stay “under intense pressure from Covid-19” in 2022.

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“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,” he stated Tuesday.

“At this rate the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks.”

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He referred to as on international locations not but affected by the surge “to mandate the use of high quality masks in closed and indoor settings and ensure that vulnerable individuals have access to them” as a result of extremely transmissible Omicron variant.

He defined that Europe has but to see the complete influence of the variant in international locations “where levels of vaccination uptake are lower,” and he’s “deeply concerned” about Omicron surging into jap Europe the place “we will see more severe disease in the unvaccinated.”

Eastern European international locations have some of the bottom vaccination charges in the area regardless of an abundance of photographs, based on knowledge from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which tracks vaccinations in the European Union.

In Bulgaria, solely 28% of residents have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. In Romania, that determine is at 40.5%, based on ECDC knowledge.

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“For countries not yet hit by the Omicron surge, there is a closing window of opportunity to act now and plan for contingencies,” Kluge warned.

Kluge used the instance of Denmark, the place he stated Omicron circumstances had “exploded” in current weeks. The Covid-19 hospitalization price for unvaccinated Danes was six instances increased than for many who have been absolutely vaccinated in the week over Christmas.

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Kluge’s calls come as different well being authorities think about strengthening their masks tips to assist sort out Omicron. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was contemplating recommending N95 or KN95 masks for many who can use them.

New phrases

As faculty phrases start amid document surges in many European international locations, Kluge confused that they need to be “the last places to close and the first to reopen.”

He acknowledged that the variant will proceed to contaminate massive numbers of folks and “schools may be unable to keep all classes open all the time, due to a lack of staff.”

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But he confused that “keeping schools open has important benefits for children’s mental, social and educational well-being,” recommending that preparations ought to be made for “online learning alongside physical presence, so children can continue with their education when they are unable to attend school in person.”

He reiterated WHO’s suggestions for instructional settings: air flow, hand hygiene and the use of acceptable face masks.

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Kluge added that “countries may wish to consider reviewing the protocols on testing, isolation and quarantine of classroom contacts to minimize disruption to learning, mitigating these risks as far as possible with good ventilation and mask usage.”

CNN’s John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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