In the first week of January, more than 7 million new cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, more than double the number two weeks earlier, were recorded in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
The director of the European delegation of the WHO, Dr. Hans Kluge, indicated at a press conference on Tuesday that 26 countries in the region had reported infections of more than 1% of their population each week. The “window of opportunity” to prevent health systems from being overwhelmed is closing, he warned.
Half the population of Western Europe will be infected with coronavirus within the next six to eight weeks, according to estimates from the University of Washington Institute for Health Statistics, Kluge said.
“Omicron moves faster and expands more than any other (previous) variant we’ve seen,” he said.
The expert asked countries to impose the use of masks in closed spaces and prioritize vaccination, including booster doses, of the population at risk such as health workers and the elderly.
The WHO Geneva office had earlier asked rich countries not to offer souvenir doses and instead donate them to poorer countries where vulnerable groups have not yet been immunized.
Kluge said he was very concerned because variant takes a much higher price in countries with lower vaccination rates. In Denmark, he noted, the rate of hospitalization for coronavirus was six times higher in unvaccinated people compared to immunized people.
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