WHO issues cautious prediction of Covid “ceasefire” in Europe’s war on pandemic
Europe could be in for “a ceasefire that could bring us enduring peace” in terms of the war on Covid-19, according to the World Health Organisation. WHO Europe director Hans Kluge says the milder Omicron variant, high vaccination rates and the end of winter approaching all combine to promise a “long period of tranquillity”.
According to an AFP report, Kluge says that while this doesn’t mean the end of the pandemic, it does provide “a singular opportunity to take control of the transmission.” In order for this to happen, he says countries must continue their vaccination drives while being on the lookout for possible new variants.
“This context leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquillity. Even with a more virulent variant (than Omicron) it is possible to respond to new variants that will inevitably emerge – without re-installing the kind of disruptive measures we needed before.”
The WHO director’s comments come as various countries begin to ease or completely lift Covid-19 restrictions. The Swedish government has set February 9 as the date the pandemic enters a new phase in the country, with a number of restrictions being lifted and measures such as vaccine passes and face masks no longer recommended on public transport.
In the early days of Covid-19 striking Europe, Sweden famously refused to impose a lockdown. While the Scandinavian country’s death toll of 16,000 is in line with the European average, it’s significantly higher than that of its neighbours, Norway, Finland, and Denmark.
On Tuesday, Copenhagen and Norway followed the UK and Ireland in lifting nearly all Covid-19 restrictions. The next day, France began easing some measures as daily case rates gradually come down. Not so in Germany, however, where record infection rates are still being reported and officials are now recommending a fourth vaccine dose for those considered high-risk.
Since the start of the pandemic, Covid-19 has killed at least 5,698,322 worldwide, according to official sources. However, the WHO reckons the real figure could be 2 to 3 times higher.
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