The head of the World Health Organization in Europe said on Thursday the continent was entering a “plausible endgame” to the pandemic as the number of coronavirus deaths began to plateau.
Dr Hans Kluge made the comment during a press briefing where he also said Europe had a “unique opportunity” to gain control of transmission through high levels of immunization through vaccination and l natural infection, the tendency of the virus to spread less in hot weather, and the lower severity of the omicron variant, as reported by The Associated Press.
“This period of high protection should be seen as a ceasefire that could bring us lasting peace,” he said.
He stressed, however, that the situation requires “a drastic and uncompromising increase in the sharing of vaccines across borders”, in Europe and beyond. The WHO has repeatedly warned that failure to ensure access to vaccines in poorer countries will allow the coronavirus to continue to spread and the emergence of new variants that may prove resistant to vaccines. .
Read: More countries ease coronavirus restrictions as pandemic reaches possible turning point after two years
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this week warned of this exact possibility when he said it was too early to declare victory over the pandemic and urged countries to stick to it. to mitigation measures and to continue to follow the variants.
See now: WHO chief warns it’s too early to throw in the towel on pandemic: ‘It’s premature for any country to surrender or declare victory’
“We are concerned that a narrative has spread in some countries that due to vaccines – and due to the high transmissibility and lower severity of omicron – prevention of transmission is not possible and no longer necessary,” Tedros said Tuesday. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The agency said even countries with high levels of vaccination should not bow to political pressure and withdraw all of their coronavirus control measures at once.
Kluge noted that there were 12 million new cases of coronavirus in the WHO European region last week, the highest weekly total of the entire pandemic. He said this spike was due to the highly infectious omicron variant, but hospital intensive care unit admissions had not increased significantly.
Denmark, the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands have so far removed most restrictions, and others are considering doing so.
In the United States, some political leaders are asking the government to start treating COVID as endemic, where it is still present but no longer creating waves of cases and overloading health systems, allowing Americans to get back to something like normality.
Read: US companies cut 301,000 jobs in January, according to ADP, the biggest drop since the start of the pandemic with the arrival of omicron
However, US daily numbers remain stubbornly high, mainly because fewer Americans are fully vaccinated than people in other wealthy countries. The United States is averaging 2,658 COVID deaths per day, up 35% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker. This is the maximum since last winter, before vaccines became available.
Read: U.S. service businesses grow at slowest pace in 11 months during omicron wave, ISM says
Cases are down from the omicron’s peak in December and January, however, and have fallen 49% from two weeks ago to an average of 385,425 a day. Hospitalizations are also down, down 16% to 133,626 per day.
But at this level, the death rate in the United States is far higher than death rates in other countries, according to a Times report on Wednesday, and shows no signs of stabilizing.
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Other COVID-19 news you should know:
• The US surgeon general said regulators reviewing a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 will use the “same independent, rigorous and transparent process” used for adult vaccines. Dr. Vivek Murthy made the comment during a White House press briefing on Wednesday. His comments came after a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that only 3 in 10 parents of children in this age group are willing to have their children vaccinated immediately when a vaccine is approved.
• The US military has said it will fire soldiers who refuse to take COVID shots, NPR reported. “The Army’s readiness depends on soldiers who are ready to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. “Unvaccinated soldiers pose a risk to the force and compromise readiness.”
• Germany’s vaccine advisory body on Thursday recommended a fourth vaccine for people at risk, including people over 70, the immunocompromised and healthcare workers, Politico reported. “Protection against infections with the currently circulating Omicron variant declines within months after an initial booster vaccination,” the Standing Committee on Immunization (STIKO) said in a statement. Israel has already started giving fourth injections to its vulnerable citizens.
• New Zealand on Thursday unveiled a phased reopening of its borders which will start in February and end in October, BBC News reported. Citizens vaccinated in Australia can return home from February 27 without having to undergo a mandatory hotel quarantine. Citizens trapped elsewhere will be allowed to enter New Zealand from March 13, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said. People will still have to self-isolate for 10 days, but can do so at home. The announcement comes after growing criticism of Wellington’s controversial policy of closing borders to keep out coronavirus. New Zealand’s borders have been closed for nearly two years.
Here’s what the numbers say
The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases has passed 386.4 million and the death toll is now above 5.7 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States leads the world with 75.7 million cases and 895,801 deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker shows that 212 million people living in the United States are fully immunized, or 63.9% of the total population.
Some 88.6 million people received a booster, or 41.8% of those fully vaccinated.