More than half of Europe’s population may be infected with omicron in weeks, WHO says

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More than half of Europe’s population may be infected with omicron in the upcoming weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” the regional director for WHO in Europe, Hans Kluge, said at a press conference

Countries around the globe have seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant since it was first identified as a variant of concern in late November.

Kluge said the variant is more transmissible “because the mutations it has enable it to adhere to human cells more easily, and it can infect even those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.”

Although the variant can infect the vaccinated or those previously infected with the virus, Kluge provided reassurance that vaccines still “provide good protection against severe disease and death.”

Still, the steep rise in COVID-19 cases could potentially overwhelm hospitals that have been repeatedly slammed by waves of the virus over the past two years.

“I am also deeply concerned that as the variant moves east, we have yet to see its full impact in countries where levels of vaccination uptake are lower, and where we will see more severe disease in the unvaccinated,” Kluge said.

There are stark differences in vaccination rates across Europe. While countries such as Germany, Spain and France have full vaccination rates above 70 percent, Romania and Bulgaria are at 40 percent or lower. 

The comments from Kluge come after the WHO said the world set a record for confirmed COVID-19 cases last week.

Tags Hans Kluge Pandemics SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant Variant of concern World Health Organization

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