Europe may see ‘long period of tranquillity’ in pandemic: WHO

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The less severe Omicron variant, coupled with high immunity levels and the arrival of warmer spring weather, is soon likely to push Europe into a “long period of tranquillity” and a “ceasefire” to the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

According to Hans Kluge, WHO’s Europe Director, the region was in a position of “higher protection” that could “bring us enduring peace”, even if a new, more virulent variant than Omicron should emerge, the Guardian reported.

Last week, the European region had recorded 12 million new coronavirus cases — the highest single weekly total of the pandemic — with about 22 per cent of all tests returning a positive result, Kluge was quoted as saying.

However, the rise in cases did not amount to a similar rise in hospital admissions, and the number of patients in intensive care, he said. The number of deaths across the region was also starting to plateau.

Kluge said “a large capital of vaccine-derived and natural immunity, a favourable seasonality pause and a lower severity of the Omicron variant” meant governments now had “a singular opportunity to take control of transmission”.

This opened up the prospect of “a long period of tranquillity and a much higher level of population defence” against any fresh resurgence in infection rates, he said.

The optimistic forecast comes days after Kluge said it was “plausible” the region was “moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame”.

But Kluge stressed on Thursday, continuing vaccine and booster campaigns, protecting the most vulnerable, promoting individual responsibility and intensifying surveillance to detect new variants, the report said.

“I believe it is possible to respond to new variants that will inevitably emerge without reinstalling the kind of disruptive measures we needed before,” he said.

But for that vaccine equity across all countries is needed, he added.

“We cannot accept vaccine inequity for one more day – vaccines must be for everyone, in the remotest corner of our vast region and beyond,” Kluge said.

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