Covid Europe News: End of pandemic in sight for Europe: WHO

Two years after the Covid-19 epidemic, Europe could soon enter a “long period of tranquility” due to high vaccination rates, the milder variant of Omicron and the end of winter, the WHO announced on Thursday.

WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said the respite was “a ceasefire that could bring us lasting peace”.

“This context leaves us with the possibility of a long period of tranquility,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Widespread immunity from vaccines and infections, combined with the change in season, also puts Europe in a better position to head off any resurgence in transmission, he said.

“Even with a more virulent variant” than Omicron, Kluge said.

“It is possible to respond to the new variants that will inevitably emerge – without reinstalling the kind of disruptive measures that we needed before,” Kluge said.

This does “not mean that (the pandemic) is now over”, but “there is a unique opportunity to gain control of transmission”, he stressed.

He warned that the optimistic scenario would only be true if countries continued their vaccination campaigns and stepped up surveillance to detect new variants.

He also urged health authorities to protect at-risk groups and promote individual responsibility, such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

Training effect

With the more contagious variant of Omicron in circulation, infections have increased in the WHO’s European region, which includes 53 countries, including some in central Asia.

Some 12 million new cases were recorded last week in the region, according to the WHO, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

But faced with a lower level of hospitalizations than in previous waves, several European countries, including France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, announced the lifting or a considerable reduction in restrictions, despite record cases or very students.

Denmark on Tuesday became the first country in the European Union to lift its national restrictions on Covid-19, followed later in the day by Norway.

Speaking on the eve of World Cancer Day, Kluge also expressed concern over the “catastrophic impact” the pandemic has had on cancer care around the world.

In the last three months of 2021, cancer screenings and treatments were halted by 5% to 50% in all the countries surveyed, he said.

“The situation has improved since the first quarter of last year,” he said.

“But the ripple effect of this disruption will be felt for years to come.”

He urged European health authorities to take advantage of the expected seasonal Covid lull to reduce backlogs in chronic care wards.