About 50 per cent of the European population will contract the Omicron variant of Covid within the next six to eight weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
According to Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Europe director, a “west-to-east tidal wave” of Omicron was sweeping across the region, on top of a surge in the Delta variant, BBC reported.
The projection was based on the seven million new cases reported across Europe in the first week of 2022.
The number of infections has more than doubled in a two-week period.
“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 told a news conference.
He quoted the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation as forecasting that “more than half of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks”.
“How each country now responds must be informed by its epidemiological situation, available resources, vaccination uptake status and socio-economic context,” he added.
While Omicron is less likely to make people seriously ill than previous Covid variants, it is still highly contagious and can infect people even if they are fully vaccinated.
With Omicron spreading rapidly to a record number of people, health systems in several countries are left under severe strain.
The UK, on Monday, reported a further 142,224 confirmed cases of the virus and 77 deaths. A number of hospitals have declared “critical” incidents due to staff absences and rising pressures caused by Covid, BBC report said.
Last week, France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran warned that January would be tough for hospitals. He said that Omicron patients were taking up “conventional” beds in hospitals, while Delta was putting a strain on ICU departments.
Poland reported that 100,000 people had died from the virus in the country since the start of the pandemic. Poland now has the sixth-highest mortality rate in the world from Covid-19, and almost 40 per cent of its population remains unvaccinated.
In Russia, 305 known cases of the Omicron variant had been detected so far, and the daily number of new Covid cases could reach 100,000, the report said.