'Significant surge' in European cases expected as Omicron spreads, says WHO
The World Health Organization's European head on Tuesday warned countries to brace for a "significant surge" in Covid-19 cases as Omicron spreads, and advised the widespread use of boosters for protection.
Since it emerged in late November, Omicron has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 countries in the WHO's European region and is already dominant in several of them including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom, Hans Kluge told a news conference in Vienna.
"We can see another storm coming," said Kluge. "Within weeks, Omicron will dominate in more countries of the region, pushing already stretched health systems further to the brink."
The WHO's Europe region includes Russia and other former Soviet republics, as well as Turkey.
WHO data shows the region has in recent weeks reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases compared to the population size anywhere. Even before Omicron, officials had warned of a further 700,000 deaths from the disease by March.
WHO headquarters in Geneva has advised that vaccine boosters be saved for the most vulnerable, but Kluge urged people to "boost, boost, boost."
"The booster is the single most important defence against Omicron," he said.
A WHO spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Kluge's remarks.
So far, 89% of the early Omicron cases in Europe were associated with common Covid-19 symptoms such as cough, sore throat and fever, Kluge said. Most cases had been reported among adults in their 20s and 30s, spreading initially in cities at social and workplace gatherings, he added.
"The sheer volume of new Covid-19 infections could lead to more hospitalizations and widespread disruption to health systems and other critical services," he said.
"Governments and authorities need to prepare our response systems for a significant surge."
The WHO said on Monday that Omicron is spreading faster than the Delta variant, causing infections in people already vaccinated or recovered from the disease. Its chief scientist has called it "unwise" to conclude from early evidence it is a milder variant than previous ones.
Two Indo-Canadian academics, working on research to advance the betterment of mankind, have been honoured with one of the country's most prestigious awards, the Order of Canada. Their names were in the list published by the office of the governor-general of Canada Mary Simon. Both have been invested (as the bestowal of the awards is described) into the Order as a Member. They are professors Ajay Agrawal and Parminder Raina.
The world's richest person, Elon Musk, has not tweeted in about 10 days and it can't go unnoticed. The 51-year-old business tycoon has 100 million followers on the microblogging site, which he is planning to buy. Since April, he has been making headlines for the $44 billion deal and his comments and concerns about the presence of a large number of fake accounts on Twitter.
The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada joined a large gathering of nationwide religious leaders in Kabul on Friday, the state news agency said, adding he would give a speech. The Taliban's state-run Bakhtar News Agency confirmed the reclusive leader, who is based in the southern city of Kandahar, was attending the meeting of more than 3,000 male participants from around the country, aimed at discussing issues of national unity.
As the country prepares to celebrate the 155th anniversary of the formation of the Canadian Confederation, Canada Day, the traditional centre of festivities, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, will be off limits as protesters linked to the Freedom Convoy begin gathering in the capital for the long weekend. Various events have been listed by protesters including a march to Parliament Hill on Friday.
A Bulgarian woman dubbed the "Crypto Queen" afteIgnatovahe raised billions of dollars in a fraudulent virtual currency scheme was placed on the FBI's 10 most wanted list Thursday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation put up a $100,000 reward for Ruja Ignatova, who disappeared in Greece in October 2017 around the time US authorities filed a sealed indictment and warrant for her arrest.