Some parts of Europe may have passed the peak of the epidemic, but the pandemic is likely to continue to haunt the old continent, and the health system still faces the risk of being overwhelmed.

During the Christmas and New Year holidays, many families gather in closed spaces for long periods of time, increasing the risk of the virus spreading between generations. So while Europe may be past its darkest days, many experts have warned of complacency too soon, saying current data may not fully reflect the impact of the recent holiday season. already.

Some places are reaching the peak of the epidemic

Europe still accounts for about half of all cases and deaths globally, although the Omicron variant poses less of a risk of severe disease, as well as the majority of the population being vaccinated, resulting in a lower number of hospital admissions than in the United States previous Covid-19 outbreaks.

However, there are growing signs that the outbreak caused by Omicron is leveling off or even declining in some areas.

In the UK, the average number of infections in 7 days has decreased by 30,000 cases / day compared to the peak of the epidemic. Spain's prime minister said the number of cases was leveling off, and a French public health institute said the wave would peak in mid-January.

Hans Kluge, World Health Organization (WTO) Director for Europe, said this week: "We see some places reaching or past the peak of the epidemic. That could be a little earlier than expected. guess, but keep in mind that the area is very diverse."

Health officials in Sweden and Switzerland say the two countries are expected to peak at the end of this month.

Tanja Stadler, the head of Switzerland's Covid-19 prevention science team, told reporters on January 11: "Within the next two weeks, we can reach the peak of the epidemic as long as people keep exposure levels are as they are now. If people are more careful, that time will come longer."

This trend is similar to the Omicron wave in Africa. The WHO Africa office said the number of infections there had stopped increasing, making this the shortest outbreak to date.

This week, Denmark - where the Omicron strain is dominating - has relaxed some epidemic prevention restrictions. The country's health minister said the epidemic is now under control.

The UK Office for National Statistics says the growth in the number of cases in England has slowed. An estimated one in 15 people became ill during the seven-day period to January 6, similar to the previous seven-day period.

Don't let your guard down

Despite the positive signs, politicians remain cautious.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on January 13 that although hospital admissions had begun to slow, the health system would remain under pressure over the next few weeks.

"The Omicron strain, with its much more contagious ability, could result in significant numbers of patients being hospitalized," he said.

He said there were encouraging signs that the number of infections was falling in the city of London and eastern England.

However, the expert said the number of cases increased in other parts of the country, and the current data did not reflect the impact of people returning to school and work after the holiday. Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Scotland, which enacted Omicron strain measures to be tougher than England, will begin lifting those measures on January 17 out of caution, such as canceling restrictions on gatherings. crowds at large outdoor sporting events.

However, the number of infections has not slowed down everywhere, Italy's National Institutes of Health said on January 14 that the rate of cases recorded weekly and the number of hospital beds used continued to increase this week.

Omicron spread rapidly in young people at first, epidemiologists say its impact on hospital admissions could be unpredictable as the strain shifts to spreading among older groups.

However, the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, which collects self-reported data on symptoms of Covid-19 in the UK, found that the Omicron wave has peaked and the number of infections in the elderly is remaining stable. at low level.

Tim Spector, principal scientist of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study, told Reuters: "It (Omicron) is very contagious, there is no way to pretend that the number of infections will drop to negligible levels, but that should be the level. controllable".

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