WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge told in an interview with TASS when the current wave of Omicron infections will end. Here are extracts from the interview.
The start of the wave and the peak
The period between the start of the Omicron wave and its peak is very short, from 20 to 25 days. If you look at the Pan-European region, a number of countries have reached the peak or declining. I mean Ireland, Spain, Greece, the UK, Malta and Cyprus. But in the majority of the countries there is rapid expansion and in some countries like Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Armenia and Azerbaijan the wave still has to start.
Still I’m optimistic because we see three situations coming together.
Number one: there will be a lot of immunity once that wave passes, either thanks to the vaccine or due to the natural infection.
Number two: the winter seasonality will decrease.
Number three: we know that Omicron is more mild, it means that for a period after the Omicron wave there will be much of tranquility and even if other variants return it should be possible for counties to live with the virus, without going back to lockdowns. The governments will have to do four things for this.
Four things governments should do
Number one - strengthen the surveillance, so that every country can quickly pick up new variant.
Number two - keep vaccinating and boosting vaccines work.
Number three - increase the access to new antiviral drugs, which can be a game changer.
Number four - if there will be a new variant, immediately give guidance to people at high risk to wear respirators, not only masks and keep the distance.
More responsibility rests on people
More and more responsibility rests on people. There are so many people infected that people have to take responsibility for self-testing, self-quarantining and, of course, the governments have to continue to take responsibility to make these strategies affordable.
Definitely we cannot say that this is the end of the pandemic. This is far too early. More than one time this virus has surprised us a lot for example with Delta variant.
But there is cause for optimism because of three factors I have mentions. We should not relax. We definitely should not say let the Omicron infect us, we don’t need vaccination, it is more mild. No, because there is also a syndrome which is called long Covid. Up to 30% of the people with Covid will suffer for months and months. That’s why I encourage all people get vaccinated, get boosted.