Pandemic fatigue is already evident in Europe, with many governments abandoning the fight against the highly contagious omicron. It is a little too early for that, argue European experts
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"Europe must unite to confront omicron," dozens of medical experts, doctors and scientists from around Europe write in the "BJM".

From Poland, the appeal is signed by Professor Tyll Krüger of the Wrocław University of Technology, who deals with mathematical models in medicine and biology and is one of the initiators of the MOCOS group, which forecasts the development of the epidemic.

The experts are calling for "concerted European measures to address the immediate threat and quickly develop joint plans to effectively combat future dangerous variants of the coronavirus".

They warn not to underestimate the omicron option too hastily:

"Although it appears to cause milder symptoms and fewer deaths in highly vaccinated populations, it still contributes to high levels of hospitalisation in many countries, and the pressure on health services is exacerbated by illness among health workers," they say.

Even more worrying, the researchers write of reports of disease among children who have been only partially vaccinated in most countries, as well as concerns about the long-term effects of the disease (a phenomenon referred to as "long COVID").

They point out that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is opposed to calling omicron a "benign" variant, as it still causes thousands of deaths worldwide. It is also still uncertain whether and for how long vaccination protects against severe cases, especially as omicron has so far not yet spread widely in older age groups in many countries.

In addition, in many European countries, the majority of citizens have not yet received their booster shots. In addition, there are people among us who are immunocompromised due to factors such as age or coexisting illnesses.

This is why, even under the most optimistic assumptions, giving the omicron a free hand could have disastrous consequences, warn scientists.

What, then, do they propose for Europe?

"Two years of the pandemic have taught us the dangers of delayed, ineffective or uncoordinated action. We also know which coping strategies are most effective," they write in the "BMJ".

Among these strategies, they cite keeping a social distance and avoiding crowding in enclosed spaces, and, where this is not possible, the need for good ventilation and air filtration, as well as wearing masks and using tests properly.

The researchers make three points in their call for coordinated action at EU level:

  1. We urgently need to reduce infections to avoid overwhelming health systems and to protect public life and the economy. This is not only about reducing severe illness, but also absences due to milder infections and quarantining key workers in all sectors of the economy, including education, transport and infrastructure. COVID is airborne, so we urgently need continent-wide uniform safety guidelines for schools, factories, entertainment venues, places where people congregate, including European regulations on ventilation standards.
  2. We must provide children with a safe education. There are reports from South Africa and the United States that hospital admissions among children are rising sharply. The same could happen in Europe, and there are currently few anti-COVID drugs approved for children. We therefore call on all European professional organisations (in health and education), the European Commission and the WHO European Region to urgently share experiences on how to teach safely in schools.
  3. We need to buy time so that more people, including children, can be vaccinated or receive booster shots. We also need to prepare for more variants of coronavirus, which requires a coordinated European (or even global) effort to develop new polyvalent [acting against multiple variants] vaccines. There also needs to be a coordinated campaign to reach those who have not yet been vaccinated, and a concerted pan-European action against sources of misinformation. Europe should also support vaccination programmes around the world, including helping to kick-start vaccine production in poorer countries.

The European Union's response in the early stages of a pandemic was often fragmented and delayed. We cannot make the same mistakes again. There is no excuse for our inaction, conclude the scientists in the BMJ.

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And once the pandemic is over, how do we assess the impact and the damage? How do we develop an action plan? The Periscope project brings together the best scientists and experts from 32 European universities, research institutes and think tanks. Gazeta Wyborcza is the only media outlet to cooperate with them. The Periscope project is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon2020 programme.

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    Two covid vaccines + booster + flu vaccine that?s all what an average person can do. We all going to contract that virus, sooner or later.
    Each lockdown is harming economy, psychical health and family relationships. Maybe it is time for a natural sieve that will remove some of irresponsible people from that planet.
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