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WHO says Europe could be heading for end of pandemic following Omicron surge

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr/Wolfgang Bayer

The World Health Organisation’s Europe director says the region could be headed for the end of the pandemic. According to an AFP report, Hans Kluge says the highly-contagious Omicron variant is likely to infect 60% of Europeans by March. This could move the virus into a new phase and herald the end of its pandemic status in Europe, once the current surge dies down.

“There will be, for quite some weeks and months, a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality. We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back.”

In the US, top scientist Anthony Fauci agrees, welcoming the sharp decline in cases in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, the WHO regional office in Africa has also said infection rates are plummeting in the region, with fatalities dropping for the first time following the peak of the Omicron-led fourth wave.

However, Kluge has stressed the need to remain cautious, pointing out that while Omicron is still spreading across the globe, there’s plenty of time for more variants to emerge.

“There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means that it is possible to predict what’s going to happen. This virus has surprised us more than once so we have to be very careful.”

He says getting the situation in Europe into a more stable position remains the priority. There is currently a huge disparity in vaccination rates, which range from 25% to 95% across countries. This is putting significant pressure on healthcare systems and hospitals. According to the AFP report, he wouldn’t confirm if a fourth vaccine dose could end the pandemic.

“We know that immunity jumps up after each shot of the vaccine.”

To date, Covid-19 has killed nearly 5.6 million people around the world, including 1.7 million in Europe.

SOURCE: AFP

 

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