More than half of people in Europe may contract the Omicron coronavirus variant in the next one and a half to two months, WHO regional director Hans Kluge warned. He also expressed concern that the strain represented a “new west-to-east tidal wave” into the countries with lower vaccination rates. Since the beginning of the year, more than 7 million Europeans have caught the infection.
“Fifty of the 53 countries in Europe and central Asia have now reported cases of Omicron. It is quickly becoming the dominant virus in western Europe and is now spreading into the Balkans. At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the Region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6–8 weeks,” said Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
Omicron incidence rate grows fast
The risk of hospitalization with the Omicron variant is 40-45 percent lower, scientists at the Imperial College London said after a study. WHO experts also admit - there is more evidence every day that this strain has milder course. However, the defense against Covid-19 cannot be weakened.
“The other reason is that we are seeing replication of Omicron in the upper respiratory tract -- and that's different from Delta and other variants, including the ancestral strain which replicated in the lower respiratory tract, in the lungs. So, this combination of factors allows the virus to spread more easily. But, what is also important to remember is that this is in the context of people mixing more, people coming into contact with others more, people not adhering to public health and social measures like distancing, wearing of a well-fitting mask,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO expert.
Omicron dominates US
The Omicron variant confidently dominates the U.S. and provokes new morbidity record. Over 1,350,000 U.S. citizens were infected with coronavirus in the last day. The previous highest incidence in the U.S. was in January 2021. Then, the country registered five times fewer cases per day, but there were twice as many deaths from COVID-19.
“50 percent of our COVID hospitalizations are vaccinated, that means half of the patients are not vaccinated. About 10 percent of these covid hospitalizations right now are in the ICU, and 5 percent are on ventilators. Now, as a point of comparison, this is a lower number than during the two prior surges. Now it’s too early to draw reliable conclusions. We’ll need to examine number over the coming days, but we anticipate a peak in the next week or two,” said Rahul Sharma, Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, New York Presbyterian.
Translation by Saniya Sakenova
Editing by Saule Mukhamejanova