Europe will likely enter another Covid-19 wave, warn WHO, OMS and ECDC

Elizabeth Smith

WHO and ECDC say that Europe will likely enter a new wave of Covid pandemic, together with the spreading of the seasonal flu.

“The co-circulation of Covid19 and seasonal influenza could put the most vulnerable and our healthcare systems at risk this winter. Together with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), we encourage everyone to come forward for vaccination against both viruses”. Wrote European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides in a tweet. “Vaccines save lives,” she added.

New Covid wave in Europe: what the OMS and ECDC said

“Although we are not where we were a year ago, it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over. Unfortunately, indicators are again rising in Europe, suggesting that another wave of infections has begun’. Not only that. ‘With the arrival of autumn and winter, a resurgence of influenza will return’. So begins the WHO and ECDC statement.

“In light of this,” they continue, “we reconfirm the need to protect the health of people, especially the most vulnerable, using all available tools, including vaccination. Anti-pandemic measures must continue in the European Region, we must not let our guard down”.

What the data on Covid contagions say

The WHO data for the region showed that Europe alone recorded an increase in Covid cases in the week ending 2 October. This is up 8% from the previous week.

The ECDC, in its 7 October update, reports that the notification rate of infections among people over 65 increased by 14%. This, compared to the previous week. Increases were observed in 19 of the 26 countries reporting data on this indicator.

Risk of “twindemia”: Covid infection and seasonal flu

But in addition to the increase in SARS-CoV-2 infections, public health experts fear a twindemic, or ‘twin epidemic’, caused by the combination of Covid and seasonal influenza.

More cases of influenza, which seemed to have almost disappeared in the last two years, will spread. Not least because the introduction of measures such as interpersonal distance and masking from March 2020 may have weakened our immune defences.

What to do to avoid the infection

Given these less than rosy forecasts, WHO and ECDC urged European countries to administer both influenza and Covid vaccines. They state: ‘vaccination remains one of the most effective tools against both viruses’ and ‘many of those most at risk of severe Covid-19 are also at high risk of contracting a severe influenza infection’.

The call is especially aimed at those who are not yet vaccinated, healthcare workers, the over 60s, the frail, and pregnant women. In fact, too many infections would again burden healthcare systems by setting us back several months.

Vaccination data in Europe

In the EU countries, according to the ECDC update, 65% of the population over 18 years of age received the booster dose of the Covid vaccine. 84.2% of the over 60s and 53.9% in the total population are vaccinated.

On the other hand, 8.7% of the over-18s, 17.8% of the over-60s and 7.1% in the total population received the second booster.

Which Covid variants are circulating now

Among the 12 countries with an adequate volume of sequencing or genotyping for the weeks 12 September to 25 September 2022, the ECDC estimates that 98.7% of the virus circulation is due to the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Also, 0.9% is due to BA.2.75 (better known as Centaurus) and, finally, 0.7% to BA.2.

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