Omicron is expected to be the dominant COVID-19 variant in the European Union by next month, a top official warned Wednesday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the 27-nation union will likely see Omicron account for the majority of infections by mid-January.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of people falling ill, a greater burden on hospitals and unfortunately, an increase in the number of deaths,” she told European Parliament lawmakers in Brussels.
“And what I’m concerned about is that we now (are) seeing the new variant Omicron on the horizon, which is apparently even more infectious,” she added.
She expressed disappointment that the pandemic will again interfere with holiday celebrations.
“Like many of you, I’m sad that once again this Christmas will be overshadowed by the pandemic,” she said.
Von der Leyen said she was confident the EU has the “strength” and “means” to fight the pandemic, but urged member nations to work to combat vaccine skepticism.
“Because the price that we will pay if people are not vaccinated continues to increase,” she said. “It’s also a problem for our elderly citizens, who once again this Christmas can’t see their grandchildren. And it’s also a problem for those children who once again can’t go to school. What kind of a life is that?”
Dr. Jenny Harries, the head of the UK Health Security Agency, said other EU member nations can look to Britain for a sense of what’s to come with the variant.
“The difficulty is that the growth of this virus, it has a doubling time which is shortening, i.e. it’s doubling faster, growing faster,” Harries told a parliamentary committee. “In most regions in the UK, it is now under two days. When it started, we were estimating about four or five.’’
Experts have said the Omicron variant has a record number of mutations, which they fear will cause it to be more resistant to the existing vaccines.
Preliminary studies, however, have suggested that a booster shot enhances protection against the variant.
With Post wires