COPENHAGEN, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- World Health Organization (WHO) European Regional Director Hans Kluge warned on Tuesday that the Omicron variant could become more prevalent in Europe as the "tidal wave" of infections spreads eastward.
"I am also deeply concerned that as the variant moves east, we have yet to see its full impact in countries where levels of vaccination uptake are lower. We will see more severe disease in the unvaccinated," said Kluge.
According to him, the Omicron variant, now spreading into the Balkans, is already present in 50 of the 53 countries in the region spanning Europe and Central Asia.
"At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50 percent of the population in the Region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks," said Kluge.
Kluge said the hospitalizations were rising due to the unprecedented scale of transmissions in the region.
To better manage the coronavirus's destructive impact on health services, economies, and societies, Kluge called for practical actions, including acting immediately and planning for contingencies, and prioritizing response systems during the "closing window of opportunity."
He also emphasized the importance of protecting the vulnerable and "minimizing disruption to health systems and essential services."
The WHO official also urged schools to remain open.
"Keeping schools open benefits children's mental, social, and educational well-being significantly. School buildings should be the last to close and the first to reopen," Kluge stated.
Additionally, Kluge outlined his five pandemic stabilizing mantras: vaccination, third doses or boosters, increased mask use, ventilation of crowded or enclosed spaces, and the continued use of new clinical protocols to guide the response to Delta or Omicron.
And the WHO Europe also said it's "way off" from treating the COVID-19 as endemic.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service