The World Health Organization (WHO) is expecting coronavirus cases to rise in Europe as some countries have already begun reporting an increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday noted the recent rise in pandemic metrics among European countries while addressing the COVID-19 International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.
“This is to be expected, as the weather cools in the northern hemisphere and people spend more time together inside,” Tedros said. “Given the current situation, we expect continued transmission of the virus, and we expect reported cases of COVID-19 to increase.”
The WHO head observed that most countries no longer have COVID-19 mitigation methods in place and have also “drastically” reduced their surveillance of the virus. He warned that these moves were “blinding us to the evolution of the virus and the impact of current and future variants.”
However, he also stated, “We never been in a better position to end COVID-19 as a global health emergency,” given how low case rates and weekly reported deaths still are.
Even as cases are expected to rise once more, Tedros stressed that deaths did not have to rise as well.
“We have the vaccines, therapeutics and know-how to save lives. As the pandemic evolves, so must the response,” Tedros said.
Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 trends in Europe have foretold what can be expected in the U.S. not long after. According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, coronavirus cases have been rising throughout the European Union since early September.
The most recent federal data from the U.S. currently indicates that case rates are still on the decline. However, stakeholders have routinely warned that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not easily predictable and more infectious variants could still emerge.
Bivalent booster doses have now been made available for people as young as five in the U.S., though vaccine uptake has remained very low even a month after the shots were first made available. The European Medicines Agency also authorized bivalent doses from Pfizer and Moderna last month.