The European head of the World Health Organization on Tuesday warned countries to brace for a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases as Omicron spreads, advising the widespread use of boosters for protection.
Since it emerged in late November, Omicron has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 countries in the WHO’s European Region and is already dominant in several of them, including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom, Hans Kluge told a news conference in Vienna. .
“We can see another storm coming,” Kluge said. “Within weeks, Omicron will dominate in more countries in the region, pushing already stretched health systems further to the brink.”
The WHO’s Europe region includes Russia and other former Soviet republics, as well as Turkey.
Data from WHO shows that the region has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases compared to the population size anywhere in recent weeks. Even before Omicron, officials had warned of another 700,000 deaths from the disease by March.
The WHO headquarters in Geneva has advised saving vaccine boosters for the most vulnerable, but Kluge urged people to “boost, boost, boost”.
“The booster is the single most important defense against Omicron,” he said.
A WHO spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Kluge’s comments.
So far, 89% of early Omicron cases in Europe have been associated with common COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, sore throat and fever, Kluge said. Most cases had been reported in adults in their 20s and 30s, who initially spread in cities during social gatherings and gatherings at work, he added.
“The sheer number of new COVID-19 infections could lead to increased hospitalizations and widespread disruption to health systems and other critical services,” he said.
“Governments and authorities need to prepare our response systems for a significant increase.”
The WHO said Monday that Omicron is spreading faster than its Delta variant, causing infections in people who have already been vaccinated or recovered from the disease. The chief scientist called it “unwise” to conclude, based on early evidence, that it is a milder variant than the previous one.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)