WHERE: Half of Europeans may be affected by Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks
The mutations in this strain "allow it to attach more easily to human cells and infect people who have already been infected (with the coronavirus) or have been vaccinated."
Concerned about the mutated Omicron strain of the coronavirus that is sweeping the world, the World Health Organization today estimated that more than 50% of Europeans could be infected in the next two months if the current rate of spread continues.
"At this rate, the Institute for Sanitary Measurements and Assessments (IHME) predicts that more than 50% of the area's population will be infected with Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks," said Hans Kluge, WHO Europe.
The mutations in this strain "allow it to attach more easily to human cells and infect people who have already been infected (with the coronavirus) or have been vaccinated," he added. The region of Europe, which includes 53 countries and reaches as far as Central Asia, recorded more than 7 million cases covid-19 in the first week of 2022.
For Kluge, the "unprecedented" spread of the epidemic leads to an increase in hospitalizations, although the mortality rate remains stable. The current wave of the epidemic "raises challenges for health systems and service efficiency in many countries where Omicron is spreading rapidly and threatening to do so in many others," the WHO official said.
At the same time, Kathryn Smallwood, senior executive of the WHO Europe, warned that covid-19 should not be treated as an endemic disease, like the flu, but as a pandemic, stressing that the spread of Omicron has not yet stabilized. "There is still a lot of uncertainty and the virus is evolving quite fast, posing new challenges. "We are certainly not at the point where we can call it endemic," Smallwood said.