“It’s a bit of a subjective assessment because it’s not just about the number of cases. It’s about difficulty, and it’s about impact, “said Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency manager.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top physician for infectious diseases in the United States, speaking at a World Economic Forum panel on Monday, said COVID-19 could not be considered endemic until it drops to “a level so it does not disturb society”.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has advised countries to move to more routine management of COVID-19 after the acute phase of the pandemic is over. The agency said in a statement that more EU states besides Spain would like to adopt “a more long-term, sustainable monitoring approach”.
Just over 80 percent of Spain’s population has received two doses of vaccine, and authorities are focused on boosting immunity in third-dose adults.
Vaccine-acquired immunity, combined with widespread infection, allows for the concentration of prevention efforts, testing, and disease-tracking resources on moderate to high-risk groups, said Dr. Salvador Trenche, head of the Spanish Society for Family and Community Medicine, who has led the call for a new endemic response.
COVID-19 “should be treated like the rest of diseases,” Trenche told The Associated Press, adding that “normalized attention” from healthcare professionals would help reduce delays in treating non-coronavirus-related problems.
The public also needs to reconcile with the idea that some deaths from COVID-19 “will be inevitable,” Tranche said.
“We can not do on the sixth wave what we did on the first: the model must change if we want to achieve different results,” he said.
The Spanish Ministry of Health said it was too early to share any drawings prepared by its experts and advisers, but the agency confirmed that one proposal is to follow an existing model of “on-call monitoring” currently used in the EU to monitor flu.
The strategy has been nicknamed “influenza isization” of COVID-19 by Spanish media, although officials say influenza systems need to be significantly adapted to coronavirus.
For now, the discussion of going for an endemic approach is limited to affluent nations that can afford to talk about the worst of the pandemic of that time. Their access to vaccines and robust public health systems is the envy of developing countries.
Nor is it clear how an endemic strategy would coexist with the “zero-covid” approach adopted by China and other Asian countries, and how it would affect international travel.
Many countries overwhelmed by the record number of Omicron cases are already giving up on massive tests and cutting quarantine times, especially for workers who show no more than cold-like symptoms. Since the beginning of the year, teaching in Spanish schools only stops if major outbreaks occur, not with the first reported case as they used to.
In Portugal, with one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa declared in a New Year’s speech that the country had “entered an endemic phase.” But the debate over specific measures disappeared as the spread quickly accelerated to record levels – nearly 44,000 new cases in 24 hours reported Tuesday.
However, hospitalizations and deaths in the vaccinated world are relatively much lower than in previous increases.
In the UK, wearing masks in public places and COVID-19 passports will be dropped on January 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday, saying the latest wave had “peaked nationally”.
The requirement that infected people be isolated for five full days remains in place, but Johnson said he will seek to scrap it in the coming weeks if virus data continues to improve. Official statistics estimate that 95 per cent of the UK population have developed antibodies to COVID-19 from either infection or vaccination.
“As COVID becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance and encourage people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others,” Johnson said.
France will ease the rules for working from home from early February and allow nightclubs to reopen two weeks later as the general COVID-19 situation in the country begins to improve, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday AEDT.
The gates for the number of people allowed into sports and entertainment venues will also be lifted on February 2, and masks will no longer be required outdoors from that date.
For some other European governments, the idea of normalizing COVID-19 is at odds with their efforts to increase vaccination among reluctant groups.
In Germany, where less than 73 percent of the population has received two doses, and infection rates hit new records almost daily, comparisons with Spain or any other country are rejected.
“We still have too many unvaccinated people, especially among our senior citizens,” Health Department spokesman Andreas Deffner said Monday.
Italy extends its vaccination mandate to all citizens aged 50 and over and imposes fines of up to € 1,500 for unvaccinated people who show up for work. Italians must also be fully vaccinated to gain access to public transport, flights, gyms, hotels and trade fairs.
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