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WHO warns of virus surge in Europe

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‘More than 50% Europeans are at risk of getting infected in the next two months’

More than half of people in Europe are on track to contract the Omicron coronavirus variant in the next two months if infections continue at current rates, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference, regional director Hans Kluge warned that the Omicron variant represented a “new west-to-east tidal wave sweeping across” the European region.

50 countries hit

“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 six to eight weeks,” Mr. Kluge told reporters.

The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries and territories including several in Central Asia, and Mr. Kluge noted that 50 of those countries had confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

According to the WHO, 26 of those countries reported that over 1% of their populations were “catching COVID-19 each week” as of January 10, and that the region had seen over seven million new virus cases reported in the first week of 2022 alone.

Mr. Kluge said the “unprecedented scale of transmission” now meant countries were seeing rising hospitalisations from COVID-19, but added that mortality rates were still stable.

The wave “is challenging health systems and service delivery in many countries where Omicron has spread at speed, and threatens to overwhelm in many more,” Mr. Kluge lamented.

“This virus, as we know, has surprised us more than once… The prime aspirational goal for 2022 is to stabilise the pandemic,” Mr. Kluge concluded.



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