A top official at the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning against treating COVID-19 like the flu.

“We still have a huge amount of uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quite quickly, imposing new challenges,” Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, said during a press briefing, according to Reuters.

“We are certainly not at the point where we are able to call it endemic,” she added. 

She did, however, say that COVID-19 “may become endemic in due course, but pinning that down to 2022 is a little bit difficult at this stage,” Reuters reported.

The warning comes as the world is experiencing another wave of COVID-19 infections, this time driven largely by the highly transmissible omicron variant. Early data has suggested that the new strain may cause less severe infection in vaccinated individuals compared to previous variants.

While cases are skyrocketing — a record 1.35 million new infections were reported in the United States on Monday — the number of deaths have remained lower than previous waves of the pandemic.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez suggested on Monday that it may be time for the world to modify how it tracks the pandemic, instead implementing strategies used for the flu, because of early reports that the virus’ lethality has dropped, according to Reuters.

“We have the conditions to gradually, with precaution, open the debate at a technical level and European level, to start evaluating the evolution of this disease with different parameters than we have until now,” Sanchez said, according to the news wire.

Tags COVID-19 endemicity seasonal flu World Health Organization

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