In the next six to eight weeks, more than 50 percent of Europe’s population could become infected with the omicron coronavirus strain, Hans Kluge, director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said at a briefing. He referred to expert forecasts based on the already observed rates of spread of the strain.
According to Kluge, about 7 million cases of COVID-19 were reported in Europe in the first week of 2022, infections more than doubled in a two-week period.
“Fifty of the 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia have recorded cases of Omicron infection. It is rapidly becoming dominant in western Europe and is now spreading to the Balkans,” he said.
As of Jan. 10, 26 countries in Europe reported to the WHO that about 1 percent of their populations are infected with COVID-19 every week, Kluge continued. Because of the unprecedented scale of transmission, hospitalizations with the coronavirus are increasing, putting a strain on health care systems.
The WHO believes that vaccines approved to date “provide good protection against severe disease and death,” including in cases of omicron infection.
In Europe, the United Kingdom has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, with more than 14 million cases of the coronavirus identified there since the pandemic began (142,224 in the last 24 hours). France is in second place with more than 12 million cases, while Russia is in third place with 10,684,204 cases (17,525 in the last 24 hours, according to the operational staff).