WHO: Omicron is set to take over Europe, a booster dose is essential for defence
According to the WHO, the fast-spreading Covid strain has now spread to 106 nations
Omicron will take over European countries in weeks, driving an already overburdened health system even further to the breaking point, according to the president of the World Health Organization's (WHO) European office, who also urged people to obtain a booster shot.
The fast-spreading Covid strain was discovered only a month ago and has since spread to 106 nations, according to the WHO. It has already established itself as a dominant force in numerous nations, including Denmark, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, where its numbers are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days, resulting in previously unheard-of transmission rates.
"We can see another storm coming," said Dr Hans Kluge, in a statement. "Omicron is likely to become the dominant variant circulating in our Region," he added.
Last week, 27,000 more Covid-19 deaths and 2.6 million new cases were reported in Europe and Central Asia. Infections, which are still primarily caused by the Delta type, are 40% greater currently than they were a year ago.
"The sheer volume of new Covid-19 infections could lead to more hospitalisations and widespread disruption to health systems and other critical services. It has unfortunately already resulted in hospitalisations and deaths," Kluge said.
Furthermore, the variation is known to resist previous immunity in humans, meaning it can still infect persons who have previously had Covid-19, as well as those who are unprotected or who were vaccinated several months ago. Individuals who have recovered from Covid-19 are three to five times more likely to be reinfected with Omicron than those who have recovered from Delta, according to studies.
While it is unknown if Omicron produces more severe disease than the Delta form, early research suggests that Covid-19 vaccines are still effective and save lives, according to Kluge.
"We need to do urgently: protect ourselves through vaccination, prevent further infections, and prepare health systems for a surge in cases," Kluge said.
It is essential to "scale-up vaccine uptake, be it a first, second or an additional/booster dose".
"If you are unvaccinated - get the jab. If you have had Covid-19 in the past - get the jab. If you are due a booster - get the jab," Kluge noted.
Aside from immunisation, he advised individuals to stay away from crowds, closed places, and restricted areas; keep a physical distance from others; wash their hands frequently; wear a mask; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and ventilate indoor rooms appropriately.
It comes a day after World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged people to avoid Christmas parties, warning that they could spread disease, "an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled."
According to the UN's Covid-19 dashboard, more than 2.6 million Covid-19 illnesses were recorded across the 51 countries in the WHO European area in the weeks ending December 13 - the most of any region for the 12th week in a row.
Above 26,000 people died, bringing the total death toll in the region to over 1.6 million.
He advised governments and authorities to build response systems in case of a big rise, but expressed concern about health workers' concerns.
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