Too quickly to deal with COVID-19 like flu as Omicron spreads: WHO

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Medical employees members deal with sufferers contained in the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) ward on the Inside Ministry Hospital in Warsaw, Poland, November 8, 2021. — Reuters/File 
  • Proof is rising that Omicron is affecting the higher respiratory tract greater than the lungs.
  • Omicron is inflicting milder signs than earlier variants.
  • “It could change into endemic in the end, however pinning that right down to 2022 is a bit bit tough at this stage,” WHO official says.

COPENHAGEN: The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is on observe to contaminate greater than half of Europeans, however it mustn’t but be seen as a flu-like endemic sickness, the World Well being Group (WHO) mentioned on Tuesday.

Europe noticed greater than seven million newly-reported circumstances within the first week of 2022, greater than doubling over a two-week interval, WHO’s Europe director Hans Kluge instructed a information briefing.

“At this price, the Institute for Well being Metrics and Analysis forecasts that greater than 50% of the inhabitants within the area shall be contaminated with Omicron within the subsequent 6-Eight weeks,” Kluge mentioned, referring to a analysis centre on the College of Washington.

Fifty out of 53 international locations in Europe and central Asia have logged circumstances of the extra infectious variant, Kluge mentioned.

Proof, nonetheless, is rising that Omicron is affecting the higher respiratory tract greater than the lungs, inflicting milder signs than earlier variants.

However the WHO has cautioned extra research are nonetheless wanted to show this. 

On Monday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez mentioned it might be time to alter the way it tracks COVID-19’s evolution to as a substitute use a way much like flu, as a result of its lethality has fallen. 

That will suggest treating the virus as an endemic sickness, relatively than a pandemic, with out recording each case and with out testing all individuals presenting signs.

However that’s “a means off”, WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, mentioned on the briefing, including that endemicity requires a secure and predictable transmission.

“We nonetheless have an enormous quantity of uncertainty and a virus that’s evolving fairly shortly, imposing new challenges. We’re actually not on the level the place we’re in a position to name it endemic,” Smallwood mentioned.

“It could change into endemic in the end, however pinning that right down to 2022 is a bit bit tough at this stage.”

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