Society 11/01/2022

Omicron to infect over half of European population within two months, WHO says

Health centres register new record number of covid visits: over 97,000 in a single day

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Ciutadans shopping in the center of Barcelona during the Nadal holidays

BarcelonaDespite the slight slowdown in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days and the restrictions imposed in Catalonia but also in other European countries, the speed of transmission of the virus has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue a new warning before the return to activity after the Christmas holidays. According to the agency, it is too early to think of treating the coronavirus as an endemic disease, such as influenza, given the uncertainties that still exist about the new variant and its high transmission. In fact, the WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, has warned that in the next six to eight weeks more than 50% of the European population will catch the virus.

In a public appearance, Kluge has expressed his concern about the pressure on health care due to the Omicron variant. In Catalonia, health centres registered a new record number of visits this Monday: 97,081 in a single day, up from 81,673 last Friday. According to the latest data from the Department of Health, which on Tuesday added 43,868 new infections and 89 deaths to the tally since the beginning of the pandemic, hospital pressure due to the virus has also increased. There are currently 2,290 hospitalised patients (58 more than on Monday), 520 of whom are in intensive care (+20).

According to the WHO, during the first week of 2022 more than seven million infections were caused by omicron in Europe. "At this rate, more than 50% of the European population is expected to be infected with omicron during the next six to eight weeks," Kluge has predicted. This is why the European director of the body has called for "caution with predictions about the future" when it comes to thinking about coronavirus as if it were influenza, an idea that Spanish president Pedro Sanchez endorsed yesterday. "We have the conditions so that, little by little, we may begin to evaluate the evolution of the disease with different parameters than those we have used so far," he said in an interview on SER.

Kluge, however, recalled that the evolution of the virus has surprised everyone "more than once". For this reason, he insisted that the fundamental objective for 2022 is to "stabilise" the pandemic and that the priority must be to protect vulnerable groups and healthcare personnel, as well as to minimise the effects of the virus on the economy and education.