As some parts of Europe begin to recover from Covid-19’s latest omicron-driven surge, the World Health Organization said Monday that the region is entering a “new phase” of the pandemic.
Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said in a statement that omicron offers “plausible hope for stabilization and normalization,” but that it is “far too early to relax.”
Citing omicron’s milder symptoms, lower risk of hospitalization and vaccine efficacy as positive steps forward, Kluge said he is still concerned about the number of unvaccinated people across the globe who are “helping to drive transmission.” He said 2022 must be the “year of vaccine equity in the European Region and beyond.” The WHO’s European region encompasses 53 countries with varying vaccination rates and health care systems.
Today, as we mark two years of the #COVID19 pandemic in Europe and Central Asia, we could be entering a new phase driven by the #Omicron variant, with plausible hope for stabilization. But it is still too early to drop our guard. 1/thread
— Hans Kluge (@hans_kluge) January 24, 2022
Kluge’s comments come as the WHO’s executive board convenes Monday in Geneva for their annual agenda-setting meeting. In addressing delegates, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general, urged collective vigilance in continuing to fight the pandemic.
“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end. But it’s dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” he said. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”
The organization is asking member-states and donors for an additional $480 million for its next two-year budget period, including $430 million for its emergencies program to coordinate the global response to Covid-19.
Tedros said that without the increase in funding, the WHO will be “set up to fail.”