This RRA extends the assessment on the circulation of the Delta variant of concern (VOC) and projections for the festive period that was published on 24 November 2021, including the emergence and spread of the Omicron VOC. The inclusion of updated forecasts developed for this risk assessment are informed by the latest evidence on Omicron VOC epidemiology, transmissibility, severity, and immune escape.
ECDC Director Dr Andrea Ammon said in a statement that the emergence of the Omicron variant has raised serious concerns due to preliminary reports of clusters of cases, including among people who had been fully vaccinated. There are indications that community transmission is already ongoing in EU/EEA countries and based on modelling predictions, a further rapid increase in Omicron cases is imminent.
She added: “The effectiveness of vaccines against severe outcomes caused by Delta remains high, therefore vaccination remains a key component in reducing the impact of Omicron and addressing the circulation of Delta. According to surveillance data, nearly half a million lives have been saved by vaccines so far. Countries should ramp up efforts to increase full vaccination in people not yet vaccinated or only partially vaccinated, as well as to administer booster doses to all eligible as soon as possible.”
Safety measures will help to keep people healthy
The statement continued to say that it remains a priority to use face masks appropriately, telework, prevent crowding in public spaces, reduce crowding on public transport, stay home when ill, maintain hand and respiratory hygiene measures and ensure adequate ventilation in closed spaces. Countries may expect a strong resurgence of cases if they lift these interventions.
Ammon added: “These measures will not only help keep us healthy but will also protect those around us. By acting together, we can overcome the difficult situation that the pandemic has caused. As the festive season comes closer, we need solidarity more than ever before.”