Europe: Omicron Wave Threatens to Overwhelm Health Workers in Weeks |

Currently Omicron variant COVID-19 represents “a new tidal wave from west to east sweeping the region.” WHORegional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Kluge.

In the first week of January, More than seven million new cases have been reported in Europe, more than doubling in a two-week period.

“How each country now responds should be determined by its epidemiological situation, available resources, vaccination status and socioeconomic context,” WHO said.

Omicron is highly contagious

As of January 10, 26 countries reported that more than one percent of their population was infected every week. According to the WHO, Omicron is becoming the dominant variant in Western Europe and is now spreading to the Balkans.

At this rate, the University Research Center Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicts that over 50 percent of the region’s population will be infected with Omicron within six to eight weeks

In their update, the WHO European experts said that data collected over the past weeks confirm that Omicron is highly transmissible: “Since its mutations allow it to more easily attach to human cells, and it can infect even those who were previously infected “. or vaccinated. “

Vaccines are still effective

Dr. Kluge repeated that currently approved vaccines continue to provide good protection against serious illness and death, including for Omicron.

In addition, mortality rates remain stable and continue to be highest in countries with high COVID-19 incidence rates, coupled with lower vaccination coverage.

Dr. Kluge stressed that “due to the unprecedented scale of transmission, we are now seeing an increase in the number of hospitalizations with COVID-19. It is challenging healthcare systems and service delivery in many countries where Omicron is spreading at a rapid pace, ”threatening to overwhelm many other countries.

Deeply concerned about the spread of the variant eastward, Dr. Kluge added that “we have yet to see its full impact in countries where vaccination coverage is lower.”

For example, in Denmark, which has seen a spike in Omicron cases in recent weeks, the hospital admission rate for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients was six times higher than for fully vaccinated patients in the week before Christmas.

Data from the British Obstetric Surveillance System show that 96 percent of pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 between May and October 2021 were not vaccinated, a third of whom needed respiratory support.

Burden of Answer

Recalling once again that the greatest burden of responding to a pandemic falls on medical and service personnel, as well as other key frontline workers, Dr Kluge said they are also at greatest risk of contracting the virus and urged more support for their mental health and wellbeing

In an effort to manage the impact on health services, the economy and society, Dr. Kluge wanted to convey three messages.

First, for countries not yet affected by the Omicron surge, the use of high-quality masks indoors and out, and ensuring that vulnerable persons have access to them, is essential.

The full course of vaccines plus boosters needed to be distributed as soon as possible, and finally, he stressed the importance of immediate isolation when symptoms appeared.

“This is a precious moment in preparing response systems by increasing the supply of tests and making them widely available free of charge in pharmacies, workplaces and communities, and making them available to critical workers,” he added.

Second, where the Omicron surge began, “the priority should be to prevent and reduce harm among the vulnerable and minimize disruption to health systems and essential services,” prioritizing vulnerable people for primary course and booster doses, and advising them to avoid closed, crowded places. offering the ability to work remotely where possible until the outbreak passes.

Dr Kluge continued that prioritizing PCR testing for those at risk of developing severe diseases, health care workers and other critical workers, and expanding the rollout of rapid tests should also be part of the strategy.

Keep schools open

In his last comment, the WHO Regional Director for Europe said that maintaining open schools has important benefits for the mental, social and educational well-being of children, and that “schools should be the last to close and reopen first”.“.

To ensure this, Dr. Kluge emphasized the importance of ventilation, hand hygiene and the use of appropriate face masks, as well as prioritizing vaccines for teachers and staff, as well as vulnerable children, where available.

“Looking ahead, the number of infected people in many countries will be so high that schools may not be able to keep all classrooms open all the time due to a lack of staff. This winter, it is advisable to organize online learning along with physical presence so that children can continue their education when they cannot attend school in person, ”he concluded.

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