Story at a glance
- The World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe released a statement.
- Hans Henri P. Kluge stated he thinks that the omicron variant may give hope that there can be stabilization and normalization.
- He said, “a new wave could no longer require the return to pandemic-era, population-wide lockdowns or similar measures.”
On Monday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Director for Europe, Hans Henri P. Kluge, released a statement about the current status of the coronavirus pandemic. He said we are in a “new phase” of the pandemic with “plausible hope for stabilization.”
One of the reasons for hope, said Kluge, is that the omicron variant is on its way to overtake the delta variant. This week, it makes up 31.8 percent of cases in Europe, up from 15 and 6.3 percent the week and two weeks prior.
“The pandemic is far from over, but I am hopeful we can end the emergency phase in 2022 and address other health threats that urgently require our attention,” said Kluge. “Backlogs and waiting lists have grown, essential health services have been disrupted, and plans and preparations for climate-related health stresses and shocks have been put on hold across the Region.”
Kluge said that even if the omicron variant appears to be less severe than delta, the sheer number of infections is leading to a rapid rise in hospitalizations. There has been and continues to be significant loss of life, as well as reversals in gains in poverty reduction.
“Children’s education and mental well-being have suffered immensely,” Kluge said.
He also draws attention to the burden and trauma suffered by health care workers, citing that research suggests that as many as 43 percent of front line health workers are experiencing anxiety. In addition, a large proportion of staff working in intensive care units meet the clinical threshold for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kluge believes that this pandemic will end, like all past pandemics have, but right now is not the time to sit back.
“Although Omicron offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization, our work is not done,” said Kluge. “Huge disparities in access to vaccines remain. If 2021 was the year of vaccine production, 2022 must be the year of vaccine equity in the European Region and beyond.”
Strong surveillance and monitoring of new variants will continue to be key, but he thinks that “a new wave could no longer require the return to pandemic-era, population-wide lockdowns or similar measures.”
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