The recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations is only just behind us; however, the onset of the winter could bring a turn for the worse, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday evening.
The arrival of the winter in the northern hemisphere (the EU, UK, US and Canada) could see a sudden spike in COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths, WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said.
“We are now seeing a welcome decline in reported deaths globally. However, with colder weather approaching in the northern hemisphere, it’s reasonable to expect an increase in hospitalisations and deaths in the coming months,” he said.
In Belgium, an average of 64 patients suffering from Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals each day, while some 1,546 new daily infections were recorded. Last winter, the number of cases peaked at 52,000 per day, while hospitalisations almost reached 370.
“We have made great strides in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. But the virus is still spreading widely, still putting people in hospital, still causing too many deaths which could be preventable as well – around 3,000 in the last week alone, about a third of the worldwide recorded total,” Dr Hans Kluge, Director of WHO’s Europe Office, said.
Ghebreyesus noted the significance of being vaccinated against the virus or getting boosters if previous shots have already been administered, as the variants of the Omicron variety remain dominant.
“Subvariants of Omicron are more transmissible than their predecessors, and the risk of even more transmissible and more dangerous variants remains,” he said.
Belgium has started inviting a larger group for a second booster dose. In all regions, the campaign will start with the most vulnerable people and healthcare workers in the first phase, and later in the month, will make the additional dose available to all people aged over 18 on a voluntary basis.