The Covid-19 pandemic is reaching its 'endgame' in Europe according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Europe director, Hans Kluge.
He said it is “plausible” that the region is moving towards a “kind of pandemic endgame” which is due to the milder Omicron variant.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, January 23, Kluge also stated that he believes in excess of 60% of Europeans will have been infected by the Omicron variant by March this year.
“There will be, for quite some weeks and months, a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection. So we anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back,” but urged the countries of Europe to still remain cautious, stating that it is still possible that other variants could emerge.
“There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means... that it is possible to predict what’s going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once so we have to be very careful,” he noted.
Over the winter period, European countries have seen record Covid cases as the Omicron wave swept across the continent, however, signs seem to suggest that this is now slowing down.
These comments come just days after Kluge criticised Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, for suggesting that world leaders should "start to treat the coronavirus like the flu" and "relax monitoring measures". While at the same time WHO said that "Covid is something we will have to live with’ and stressed that ‘it is still too early to consider it to be an endemic disease."
Spain has seen a decline in new cases in most of its regions, however, some have reported a rise in both the accumulated incidence rate and hospital admissions, which still stands above 25%.
Regardless of this, many regions have opted to relax their safety restrictions, for instance, night-time curfews and Covid passports for entry into bars and restaurants.
In Spain this weekend, residents took to the streets of Bilbao, Barcelona and Seville in protest against Covid restrictions, just as the UK, France and Ireland lifted several measures including scrapping work from home guidance and the mandatory wearing of face masks.
In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson even suggested last week, that isolation could also end in England from March.
However, Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, said that she believes that it would be “premature” to end the requirement to self-isolate when infected.
Ms Kerkhove said: “I think it’s premature. I think there needs to be a clear reason of why it’s being dropped. If you don’t isolate cases then the virus will spread between people.”
When Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy for Covid-19 was asked by Sky News, whether the end of the pandemic is in sight for the countries in Europe, he said “The end is in sight, but how long is it going to take to get there? What sort of difficulties will we face on the way? Those are the questions that none of us can answer because this virus continues to give us challenges and surprises.”
“It’s as though we’re just passing the halfway mark in a marathon and we can see that yes, there is an end and fast runners are getting through ahead of us.
“But we’ve still got a long, long way to trudge and it’s going to be tough.”