Follow us for updates
© 2022
Read the Story →

Omicron 'Tidal Wave' to Infect Half of Europe by March, Says WHO

Variant is present in 50 of 53 territories in the continent.
by Agence France Presse
Jan 12, 2022
Photo/s: Shutterstock

COPENHAGEN -- More than half of people in Europe will likely catch Omicron by March, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, as the World Bank warned the contagious variant could hamper global economic recovery.

Millions in China were locked down again, exactly two years after Beijing reported the first death from what was later confirmed to be coronavirus.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant has swept across countries, forcing governments to impose fresh measures and some rolling out vaccine booster shots.

But the WHO on Tuesday said repeating booster doses of the original COVID-19 jabs was not a viable strategy against emerging variants.

The UN body called for new vaccines that better protect against transmission.

"A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable," a WHO vaccine advisory group said.

With almost eight million recorded infections over the past seven days, Europe is currently reporting the largest number of deaths and cases worldwide, according to an AFP tally.

Continue reading below ↓

Europe is at the epicenter of alarming new outbreaks and the WHO said Tuesday Omicron could infect half of all people in the region at current rates.


How Worried Should You Be About Omicron?

Omicron Kills, Calling it 'Mild' is a Mistake, WHO Says

EXPLAINER: How Omicron, Other Coronavirus Variants are Found

Omicron Might Evade Antibodies, But That Doesn't Mean You Don't Have Immunity

European 'tidal wave'

The WHO's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge described a "new west-to-east tidal wave sweeping across" the region.

"The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks," he added. 

The WHO's European region covers 53 countries and territories including several in Central Asia, and Kluge said 50 of them had Omicron cases. 

Kluge however stressed "approved vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death -- including for Omicron".

Continue reading below ↓
Recommended Videos

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that the spread of Omicron was pushing COVID-19 towards being an endemic disease that humanity could live with, even if it remained a pandemic for now.

'Permanent scar on development'

The World Bank predicted global economic growth would decelerate in 2022 as Omicron risks exacerbating labour shortages and supply chain snarls.

In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, it cut its forecast for world economic growth this year to 4.1% after the 5.5% rebound last year.

World Bank President David Malpass said the pandemic could leave a "permanent scar on development" as poverty, nutrition and health indicators move in the wrong direction.

The warnings came exactly two years after the announcement of the first person dying of a virus only later identified as COVID-19 -- a 61-year-old man in Wuhan, China, where the illness was first detected. 

Since January 11, 2020, known fatalities in the pandemic have soared to nearly 5.5 million.

Continue reading below ↓

China largely tamed its initial outbreak using lockdowns, border closures and mass testing, but flare-ups in some major cities are testing that zero-COVID strategy just weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The city of Anyang in Henan province on Monday night told its five million residents not to leave their homes or drive cars on the roads, China's official Xinhua news agency said.

The cities of Yuzhou and Xi'an have also entered strict lockdowns.

Hong Kong, which already has some of the toughest coronavirus border restrictions in the world, on Tuesday shut kindergartens and primary schools until early February to fight an Omicron outbreak.

And Japan extended until the end of next month a strict COVID-19 border policy that bars almost all new foreign arrivals.


Got COVID Symptoms Like Itchy Throat? Here's What You Should Do

GUIDE: How Long Should You Isolate, Quarantine?

GUIDE: Where to Get Free, Affordable RT-PCR Test in Metro Manila

Continue reading below ↓

Unequal vaccine access

The World Economic Forum warned that the widening gap in unequal access to vaccines could create a poisonous legacy of resentment,making it harder to reach agreements on global issues such as climate change.

"A greater prevalence of COVID-19 in low-vaccination countries than in high-vaccination ones will weigh on worker availability and productivity, disrupt supply chains and weaken consumption," WEF said.

The polarizing nature of COVID-19 came into sharp focus last week when Australia cancelled the visa of the world's top men's tennis player over COVID-19 shot requirements.

The unjabbed, vaccine-skeptic Novak Djokovic won a legal challenge against the government Monday, but Australia's immigration minister reserves the right to cancel his visa again as the Serbian aims to defend his Australian Open title.

In France, unions say three out of four teachers plan to strike on Thursday against the government's shifting rules on COVID-19 testing for students, forcing half the country's primary schools to close.

Continue reading below ↓

And Bolivia's vice president David Choquehuanca, who touts indigenous treatments for COVID-19, has contracted the virus for a third time, the government announced.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had caught it for a second time.

Reportr is now on Quento. Download the app or visit the Quento website for more articles and videos from Reportr and your favorite websites.

Latest Headlines
Read Next
Recent News
Some relief from rising prices.
With the reopening of several local destinations, this app has never been more timely.
Landmark Roe vs Wade ruling of 1973 is overturned.
Its rise mirrors the rise of technology for the masses.
It cites global uncertainties for its move.
The news. So what? Subscribe to the newsletter that explains what the news means for you.
The email address you entered is invalid.
Thank you for signing up to On Three, reportr's weekly newsletter delivered to your mailbox three times a week. Only the latest, most useful and most insightful reads.
By signing up to newsletter, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.