Covid: EU warns ‘entirely new’ strains could emerge this winter | news | DW
European Union officials and health experts on Friday urged governments to step up measures to curb the expected rise in COVID-19 infections this winter.
The urgency comes after the European Union’s Medicines Agency approved vaccines from Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer that have been updated to address the omicron variant.
What countries to do this winter?
The European Commission has published a set of concrete actions and strategies for national governments to adopt as the 27-nation bloc approaches autumn and winter.
Measures include prioritizing adjusted booster doses for populations at higher risk, as well as trying to close vaccination gaps for those who have not yet received a full dose or their first booster dose – especially among children who are now eligible for the vaccine.
Countries were also urged to maintain vaccination capacities either by reactivating vaccination centers or giving general practitioners vaccinations.
While many restrictions related to the wearing of face masks in public places have been rescinded, the committee “strongly encouraged” governments to ensure their use in specific places, such as on public transport.
What about the new variables?
The European Union’s executive arm, the Commission, said the sudden rise in cases this summer had “reminded us very clearly that the epidemic is not yet over”.
As more activities move indoors and children return to school in the colder months, the potential for the virus to spread increases. Moreover, the commission said changes in behavior due to epidemic fatigue and the lifting of restrictions could also have an impact.
The Commission warned that “these factors facilitate the rapid spread of the virus in the European Union and this opens the door to new emerging variants that could avoid immunity, spread easily or cause more serious disease.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also warned that more variants of the coronavirus could be on the horizon, but current vaccines will still protect people.
“There may be a whole new variable that we can’t predict today,” Marco Cavalieri, head of EMA Vaccines, said at a news conference Friday.
He urged people not to wait for specific vaccines that have been adapted to the now prevalent Omicron strain.
“The original vaccines can still protect against severe COVID-19 illness and death,” even if they are less effective than the new vaccines at preventing infection.
The European Union says more than 2,300 people across the Union continue to die every week from coronavirus infection.
rs/wd (AFP, Reuters, Kuwait News Agency)