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Europe in COVID ‘ceasefire’ that could see end of pandemic: WHO

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Two years after the outbreak of COVID-19, Europe could soon enter a “long period of tranquility” due to high vaccination rates, the milder Omicron variant and the end of winter, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

“This period of higher protection should be seen as a ceasefire that could bring us enduring peace,” WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge told reporters.

“This context, that we have not experienced so far in this pandemic, leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquility,” he added.

Europe would also be in a better position to fend off any resurgence in transmission, “even with a more virulent variant” than Omicron, he added.

“I believe that it is possible to respond to new variants that will inevitably emerge – without re-installing the kind of disruptive measures we needed before,” Kluge said.

However, he cautioned that the optimistic scenario would only hold true if countries continued their vaccination campaigns and intensified surveillance to detect new variants.

He also urged health authorities to protect risk groups and to promote individual responsibility.

With the more contagious Omicron variant in circulation, infections have surged across the WHO’s European region, which comprises 53 countries, including some in central Asia.

Some 12 million new cases were registered last week in the region, according to the WHO, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.