On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned countries against treating the omicron variant like an endemic illness such as the flu, saying that the spread of omicron had not yet stabilized and there could be unpleasant surprises around the corner.
Speaking at a news conference, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, told media outlets, “We still have a huge amount of uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quite quickly, imposing new challenges. We are certainly not at the point where we are able to call it endemic.”
The WHO’s warning comes a day after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged authorities in Spain to treat the omicron variant like the flu.
“We have the conditions to gradually, with precaution, open the debate at a technical level and European level, to start evaluating the evolution of this disease with different parameters than we have until now,” Prime Minister Sanchez had said on Monday in an interview with radio station Cadena SER.
Following Sanchez’s interview, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that authorities in Spain were considering tracking the spread of omicron in a manner similar to the flu, without recording every single case and without testing all people exhibiting symptoms.
On Tuesday, the WHO also issued a dire warning to Europe, projecting that half of the continent would be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the coming six to eight weeks.
Since the turn of the year, Europe recorded seven million fresh COVID-19 infections in just the first week of January, and case counts across the continent have doubled over the past two weeks.
Healthcare systems across the continent, even those in highly developed nations such as the UK and France, have come under tremendous pressure of late under burgeoning case loads and things are not looking up as the number of infections are expected to grow manifold in the coming weeks.