Coronavirus Omicron variant
Coronavirus Omicron variant iStock

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant could ‘plausibly’ spell the end of the COVID pandemic, a senior World Health Organization official said Sunday.

Hans Kluge, director of the World Health Organization’s European division told AFP Sunday that Europe may now be moving towards a “pandemic endgame”, with as many as 60% of Europeans potentially becoming infected with Omicron by March.

"It's plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame," Kluge said.

The variant, which is far more transmissible but significantly less virulent than previous strains, could help create “global immunity”, and said that while COVID will remain endemic, the pandemic may not return.

"There will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality."

"So we anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back.”

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has led to mixed responses from European leaders, with Austria’s parliament voting to pass a comprehensive national COVID vaccine mandate with fines for all adults who do not receive the jab; while the UK moved to drop most coronavirus restrictions, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that England – which maintains separate COVID regulations from Scotland – will allow vaccine pass and mask requirements to expire.

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