the first week of January, Europe tops 7 million new cases, more than doubling in two weeks.
“How each country responds now must understand its epidemiology, available resources, vaccination status and socioeconomic background,” WHO said.
Omicron high light transmittance
As of January 10, 26 countries reported that more than 1% of their populations were infected each week. According to the World Health Organization, Omicron is becoming a major variant in Western Europe and is now spreading across the Balkans.
At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a research center at the university, predicts that Over 50% of the region’s population will be infected with Omicron within six to eight weeks.
Experts from WHO Europe said in their update that data collected in recent weeks confirms that Omicron is highly contagious: “Because it has mutations that make it easier to stick to human cells and can even infect previously Infected people. Or vaccinated.”
Vaccines still work
Dr. Kluge reiterated, Currently approved vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death, including Omicron.
Furthermore, in countries with high rates of COVID-19 and low vaccination rates, mortality rates have remained stable and continue to be highest.
Dr Kluge emphasized that “due to the unprecedented scale of transmission, we are now seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. In many countries where Omicron is rapidly spreading, this poses challenges to health systems and service delivery” and threatens the overwhelmed.
Dr Kluge was deeply concerned about the eastward-moving variant, adding: “We have yet to see its full impact in countries with low vaccination rates”.
In Denmark, for example, where Omicron cases have surged in recent weeks, unvaccinated patients had six times the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the week of Christmas than fully vaccinated patients.
Data from the UK’s Obstetric Surveillance System shows that 96% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 between May 2021 and October 2021 were unvaccinated, with a third requiring respiratory support.
Dr Kruger reminded again that the greatest burden of responding to the pandemic is borne by health and care workers and other essential frontline workers, who, he said, are also the most exposed to the virus, calling for provide more support for their mental health and well-being.
To manage the impact on health services, the economy and society, Dr. Kruger has three messages.
First, for countries not yet affected by the surge in Omicron, it is critical to use high-quality masks in closed and indoor settings and ensure that vulnerable groups have access to them.
A full course of vaccine and booster shots need to be distributed as soon as possible, and finally, he stressed the importance of isolating immediately if symptoms develop.
He added: “This is a valuable time to prepare the response system, increase the availability of testing, provide widespread free testing in pharmacies, workplaces and the community, and make it accessible to key workers.”
Second, where the Omicron surge began, “priorities should be to avoid and reduce harm to vulnerable populations and to minimize disruption to health systems and essential services,” prioritizing vulnerable populations receiving primary courses and booster doses, and advising them Avoiding closed, crowded spaces, offers the possibility to work remotely as much as possible until the infection surge passes.
Dr. Kluge continued, prioritizing PCR testing for individuals at risk of serious illness, health and other critical workers, and deploying rapid testing more broadly, should also be part of the strategy.
keep schools open
In his final point, the WHO Regional Director for Europe said, Keeping schools open has important benefits for children’s psychological, social and educational well-being and “schools should be the last places to close and the first to reopen”“.
To ensure this, Dr Kruger stressed the importance of ventilation, hand hygiene and the use of proper masks, as well as making vaccines a priority for teachers and staff, and providing vaccines to vulnerable children when they are available.
“Looking ahead, the number of infections in many countries will be so high that schools may not be able to keep all classes open all the time due to understaffing. This winter, it is advisable to arrange in-person learning alongside online learning so that children can go to school when they cannot attend in person. continue education,” he concluded.