Omicron marked the beginning of a new phase in the Covid-19 pandemic, and perhaps its end in Europe, the head of the European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday, reports HINA.
"It can be concluded that the region is approaching a kind of final phase of the pandemic," Hans Kluge told AFP, adding that by March, 60 percent of Europeans could be infected with omicron.
When the current wave of omicron infection in Europe subsides, "global immunity will be established that will last for weeks and months, thanks to the vaccine and the immunity that people have acquired through the infection and reduced seasonality," explains Kluge.
"We expect a period of peace, and then at the end of the year Covid-19 could return, but not necessarily a pandemic," added the leader of the WHO Europe.
After the decline in the number of cases of infection in the north-eastern United States, a turnaround is possible throughout the country, although we should not be overly relaxed, he stressed.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa announced last week that the number of cases had fallen sharply on the continent and that deaths were falling for the first time since the fourth wave of the omicron-dominated pandemic peaked.
The head of the European office warns that it is still too early for Covid-19 to be declared an endemic disease, such as the flu.
“There’s a lot of talk about endemics, but endemics mean… you can predict how things will develop. The virus has already surprised us several times, so we have to be very careful ", emphasizes Kluge. Omicron is expanding very fast, and new variants could emerge, he adds.
EU Commissioner for Internal Markets Thierry Breton, whose portfolio includes vaccine production, said on Sunday that it would be possible to adapt them to possible new variants of the virus.
"We will be more resilient, among other things, to new variants," Breton told French television station LCI. "We will be ready to adapt vaccines, especially those based on mRNA technology, if it is necessary to adapt them to more contagious variants (viruses)," the EU commissioner added.
In the WHO European Region, which includes 53 countries, including several in Central Asia, omicron accounted for 15 percent of new cases by January 18, up from 6.3 percent a week earlier, the organization said.
This variant of the coronavirus is now dominant in the European Union and the European Economic Area, the EU's health agency ECDC announced last week.
As it expands very quickly, Europe should not focus on measures to stop transmission but seek to minimize disruption to hospitals, schools and the economy and make great efforts to protect the vulnerable, he said.
Citizens, on the other hand, should be responsible. “If you don’t feel well, stay home and get tested. If you are positive, isolate yourself,” he explains.
The priority is to stabilize the situation in Europe, where vaccination rates range from 25 to 95 percent, which means different levels of workload in hospitals and health care systems.
"Stabilization means that the health system is no longer blocked due to Covid-19 and can provide basic health care services, which are unfortunately severely impaired when it comes to cancer and cardiovascular disease and routine immunization."
Asked if a fourth dose of vaccine is needed to end the pandemic, he cautiously replied that "we know that immunity is strongly strengthened after each dose of vaccine."
Nearly 5.6 million people have died so far from coronavirus infection, of which 1.7 million in Europe, according to AFP calculations.