Europe – Europe must act now or risk tougher COVID measures later, WHO official says

New WHO/Europe strategy urges countries to urgently address gaps in pandemic monitoring and response to avoid preventable deaths and severe disruptions to health systems

At this time last year, WHO/Europe spoke about a new wave of COVID-19 sweeping across the Region, driven by the Delta variant amid the lifting of restrictions and increased social mixing.
It’s now abundantly clear we’re in a similar situation to last summer – only this time the ongoing COVID-19 wave is being propelled by sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, notably BA.2 and BA.5, with each dominant sub-lineage of Omicron showing clear transmission advantages over the previously circulating viruses.
With rising cases, we’re also seeing a rise in hospitalizations, which are only set to increase further in the autumn and winter months as schools reopen, people return from holidays and social mixing moves indoors with the onset of colder weather. This forecast presents a huge challenge to the health workforce in country after country, already under enormous pressure from dealing with unrelenting crises since 2020.
Consider the current situation: The European Region has seen a tripling of new COVID-19 cases over the past 6 weeks, with close to 3 million new cases reported last week, accounting for nearly half of all new cases globally. While hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 have doubled in the same period, intensive care unit admissions have so far remained relatively low. However, as infection rates in older groups continue to rise, Europe is still seeing close to 3000 people die of COVID-19 every week.
These numbers paint a picture of the recent past. Looking to and preparing for the future is much more difficult, yet must be urgently tackled. That’s why today, WHO/Europe is releasing its autumn/winter strategy for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses – to help prepare for the coming waves of infection. Waiting for the autumn to act will be too late. ..