BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) – The Omicron variant will likely be dominant in Europe by mid-January, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday (Dec 15), adding that the case numbers appear to be doubling every two or three days.
Ms Von der Leyen said that the current Covid-19 wave in Europe is still being driven by the Delta variant, but it’s important to roll out more vaccinations and boosters to fight the new strain.
She noted that Europe can now produce 300 million vaccine doses per month.
“We’re going to do everything possible to ensure that vaccination scepticism is overcome because the price that we’ll pay if people are not vaccinated continues to increase,” she said in an address to the European Parliament.
EU countries are taking a varying set of steps to combat, or at least slow, the Omicron wave.
Italy imposed a new rule requiring all visitors – including those from other EU countries – to show a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country.
Finland is also planning to tighten its travel rules, requiring travelers from outside the bloc to present a negative test.
Already, Denmark, which has one of the most rigorous virus screening programs in Europe, confirmed more than 1,000 Omicron cases.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday said the variant is spreading “at a fierce pace”, calling it “a serious situation”.
The bloc’s leaders are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss ways to fight the new virus strain, with a particular focus on booster shots.
But they are struggling to harmonise their travel rules and to ensure other measures are coordinated across the EU.
There are still some hiccups in the vaccination effort. Germany’s new health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said the country, which was already lagging behind some of its neighbors on vaccination rates, doesn’t have enough doses for the coming months.
Germany may be lacking as many as 60 million doses, Business Insider reported on Wednesday, citing health ministry calculations. The ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Some 25 European countries have confirmed Omicron cases, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
A preliminary analysis of the initial cases reported shows that about 70 per cent of them were acquired locally and weren’t linked to travel from Africa, where the variant was first identified.
“This indicates that undetected community transmission could be ongoing” in Europe, the ECDC said.