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Covid-19 and Omicron Variant News: Live Updates

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Credit…Miguel Medina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The pandemic that has rocked the world for more than two years is entering a ‘new phase’ globally, and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus offers ‘plausible hope’ of a return to normal within months. coming soon, the World Health organization’s top official in Europe said in a statement on Monday.

Dr Hans Kluge, director of the WHO European region, warned it was too early for nations to let their guard down, but said that between vaccination and natural immunity through infection, “Omicron offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization”.

His comments echoed the optimism of other leading public health officials around the world, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser on the coronavirus.

Dr Fauci said on Sunday that while there would be pain in the coming weeks, especially as Omicron moves among the unvaccinated, the hope was that the continued spread of Omicron would not disrupt society to the same degree that other variants of the coronavirus have. over the past two years.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said it remained the world’s collective responsibility to end the pandemic.

“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic might unfold and how the acute phase might end. But it is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are at the end of the game,” he told a meeting of the World Health Organization’s board of directors on Monday. ” On the contrary, on a global scale, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”

Considering how the virus has offered new surprises and challenges throughout the pandemic, Dr. Kluge also offered a mixture of caution and optimism.

“The pandemic is far from over, but I hope we can end the emergency phase in 2022 and deal with other health threats that require our urgent attention,” wrote the Dr. Kluge. “Backlogs and waiting lists have lengthened, essential health services have been disrupted, and plans and preparations for climate-related health stresses and shocks have been put on hold.”

The WHO European region is not limited to the European Union. It includes 53 countries, covering a vast geographical region from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Omicron has spread across the region from west to east, into countries with lower vaccination rates.

“While Omicron appears to cause much less severe disease than Delta, we are still seeing a rapid increase in hospitalizations, due to the large number of infections,” Dr. Kluge wrote. “Fortunately, hospitalizations with Omicron result in ICU admissions much less frequently. As expected, most people in critical care in the region are unvaccinated.”

He urged nations to step up vaccination campaigns.

“Too many people who need the vaccine are not vaccinated,” he said. “This helps to stimulate transmission, prolong the pandemic and increase the likelihood of new variants.”

Two years ago today, January 24, 2020, the first case of coronavirus in Europe was detected in France. Dr Kluge took note of the toll the virus caused in the 732 days that followed.

Some 1.7 million deaths in the region have been attributed to Covid – representing 99 people dying every hour of every day, according to WHO estimates.

Additionally, more than four million people have been pushed into poverty in the region, meaning they earn less than $5.50 a day. Frontline health workers have experienced significant levels of anxiety and the WHO cited a study showing that around 40% of staff working in intensive care units reached the clinical threshold for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This pandemic, like all other pandemics before it, will end, but it’s far too early to relax,” Dr Kluge said. He added that it was “almost certain that new variants of Covid-19 will emerge and return”.

But the world was in a much better place to deal with what might come, he noted.

“I believe that a new wave could no longer require the return to population-wide lockdowns in the age of the pandemic or similar measures,” he said.

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