Within six to eight weeks, half of Europe would have been infected with the Omicron strain of Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization.
On top of the surge of the Delta variety already there, Dr Hans Kluge claimed a “west-to-east tidal wave” of Omicron was rushing through the region.
The forecast was based on the seven million new cases recorded in the first week of 2022 across Europe. In only two weeks, the number of infections has more than doubled.
“Today the Omicron variant represents a new west-to-east tidal wave, sweeping across the region on top of the Delta surge that all countries were managing until late 2021,” Dr Kluge said at a press conference.
According to him, European and Central Asian countries are still under “intense pressure” as the virus spreads from Western countries into the Balkans.
“How each country now responds must be informed by its epidemiological situation, available resources, vaccination uptake status and socio-economic context” he added.
According to recent research, Omicron is less likely to cause serious illness than prior Covid versions. Omicron, on the other hand, is very infectious and may infect people even if they are completely vaccinated. The unprecedented number of persons infected has put a burden on health-care systems.
The UK recorded 142,224 confirmed cases of the virus and 77 fatalities on Monday. Due to staff absenteeism and mounting demands caused by Covid, a number of hospitals have declared “critical” situations.
Hospital admissions are also on the rise elsewhere. Last week, France’s Health Minister, Olivier Veran, warned that January will be difficult for hospitals.
He went on to say that Omicron patients were taking up “conventional” hospital beds, whilst Delta was placing a load on ICU units.
In eastern Europe, Poland stated that 100,000 people have died as a result of the virus since the outbreak began. Poland presently has the world’s sixth-highest Covid-19 death rate, and over 40% of its population is unvaccinated.
Pfizer said on Monday that it will be ready to sell a version of its vaccine that gives specific protection against Omicron in March. According to health experts, it is not yet obvious whether this is the needed.