Omicron ‘tidal wave’ could infect half of all Europeans within the next 2 months, WHO official says

People wait in front of a pharmacy open on Sunday to get a COVID-19 test, in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022.
People wait in front of a pharmacy open on Sunday to get a COVID-19 test, in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. AP Photo/Francois Mori
  • More than half of all Europeans could soon contract the Omicron coronavirus variant, a WHO official said.
  • Omicron “represents a new west to east tidal wave sweeping across the region,” said Dr. Hans Kluge.
  • Projections show that “more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks,” he said.

More than half of the population in Europe could be infected with the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant within the next two months, a World Health Organization official warned Tuesday. 

Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said during a virtual press conference that the Omicron variant “represents a new west to east tidal wave sweeping across the [European] region.”

“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks,” Kluge said.

Kluge noted that 50 of the 53 countries in Europe and central Asia have reported cases of Omicron and that the variant is “quickly” becoming the dominant strain in western Europe as it spreads to the Balkans. 

The WHO official explained that “currently approved [COVID-19] vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death, including for Omicron.”

However, Kluge said, “because of the unprecedented scale of transmission, we are now seeing rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

“It is challenging health systems and service delivery in many countries where Omicron has spread at speed, and threatens to overwhelm in many more,” he said.

New COVID-19 cases worldwide are shattering records as the Omicron variant spreads.