Dec 22, 2021 - Health

WHO Europe chief on Omicron: "We can see another storm coming"

World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge during a meeting with Russia's Prime Minister in Russia
World Health Organization regional director for Europe Hans Kluge. Photo: Alexander Astafyev/TASS via Getty Images

World Health Organization Europe regional director Hans Kluge said at a briefing Tuesday that governments should prepare for "a significant surge" in COVID-19 cases, driven by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Threat level: "We can see another storm coming — Omicron is becoming, or already has become, dominant in several countries — including in Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom, where its numbers are doubling" and "generating previously unseen transmission rates," Kluge said.

By the numbers: Last week, Europe and central Asia saw 27,000 additional COVID-19 deaths and 2.6 million new cases, Kluge said.

  • "Infections, still predominantly from the Delta variant, are 40% higher now than during the same period last year," he continued.
  • 89% of people affected by Omicron "reported common COVID-19 symptoms — cough, sore throat, fever," according to Kluge.

Yes, but: "We don't yet know whether Omicron causes more severe disease than the Delta variant," Kluge noted.

The bottom line: Vaccination and booster shots remain the best defense against Omicron, Kluge said.

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