As the winter subsides in much of Europe in the coming weeks, Kluge said the upcoming spring “leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquillity and a much higher level of population defence against any resurgence in transmission.”
Even if another variant emerges, Kluge said health authorities in Europe should be able to keep it in check, provided immunisation and boosting efforts continue, along with other public health interventions.
He said, however, this demands “a drastic and uncompromising increase in vaccine sharing across borders,” saying vaccines must be provided to everyone across Europe and beyond.
Scientists have repeatedly warned that unless the majority of the world’s population is vaccinated, any opportunities for COVID-19 to keep spreading means it could mutate into deadlier and more transmissible forms.
Numerous countries across Europe, including Britain and Denmark, have dropped nearly all their coronavirus restrictions after saying that omicron has peaked. Others, including Spain, are now considering whether to consider COVID-19 to be an endemic problem that might be handled more like seasonal flu.
At WHO’s Geneva headquarters, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the world as a whole is still far from exiting the pandemic.
“We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines — and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity — preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” Tedros said Tuesday. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The agency has said even countries with high levels of vaccination should not succumb to political pressure and release all of their coronavirus measures at once.
Kluge noted that there were 12 million new coronavirus cases across WHO’s European region last week, the highest single weekly total during the pandemic.
He said that spike was driven by the hugely infectious Omicron variant, but said that admissions to hospital intensive care units haven’t risen significantly.