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Omicron tidal wave sweeping Europe

Wednesday January 12th 2022

The Omicron variant is a “tidal wave” sweeping across Europe, the World Health Organization has warned.

The World Health Organization's Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge, warned that half the population of western Europe could be infected over the next few weeks.

Omicron "represents a new west to east tidal wave sweeping across the region", he warned yesterday, with "infections risking submerging health systems across Europe".

This region recorded over seven million new cases in the first week of 2022, twice that of a fortnight previously. Over one in a hundred of the population in 26 countries is becoming infected weekly.

Dr Kluge reported that Omicron has been reported in 50 of the Europe region’s 53 states and is becoming dominant in western Europe.

“At this rate, more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks”, he said.

He advises: "How each country responds must be informed by its epidemiological situation, available resources, vaccination uptake status and socio-economic context."

However, he offers general guidance applicable everywhere. "The '5 plus one' pandemic stabilisers that have guided our response in recent months, are as relevant for tackling Delta or Omicron today as they have ever been," he says.

"These remain our mantra: 1. Vaccination, 2. Third doses or boosters. 3. Increased mask use. 4. Ventilation of closed spaces. 5. The application of new clinical protocols. Plus, our overarching drive must be towards vaccine sharing and solidarity - across age-groups, sectors, borders, and political lines."

Regarding schools, he says: "Keeping schools open has important benefits for children’s mental, social and educational well-being. Schools should be the last places to close and the first to reopen."

Finally, he urges that we acknowledge the greatest burden being carried by health and care staff. "I call for more support for their mental health and wellbeing," he says.

The UK yesterday reported 120,821 new cases of infection and 379 new deaths from COVID. It was the largest total of deaths since last February.

There were signs of the NHS reaching the forecast “plateau” of cases. Hospitals in England reported having 16,939 infected patients yesterday and in Scotland 1,479, a slight increase in Scotland and a slight reduction in England.

Tags: Europe | Flu & Viruses | NHS | Pharmaceuticals | Respiratory

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