Omicron has got to Moldova. According to experts, despite the potential increase in the incidence of up to 3-4 thousand cases per day, “apocalyptic-case scenarios” in healthcare will be avoided due to the strain’s low lethality
Omicron Takes over the World
Has only the year 2022 begun, and it already shows us coronavirus anti-records. In the first week of the year, 14 million cases of COVID-19 were detected worldwide, and 32.5 million cases were detected in 13 days of January. This is the absolute maximum since the beginning of the pandemic. The morbidity increase is associated with the spread of the Omicron strain, which has almost everywhere replaced the Delta variant.
The highest incidence is now in the United States. More than 3 million people got infected there in a week, and the increase in the number of infected exceeds 800 thousand per day – for comparison, at the peak last January, this figure was at the level of 300 thousand. In second place is France, where 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of January, and the daily increase exceeded 300,000 for the first time. At the same time, Delta continues to dominate here, so the worst is probably yet to come for the French.
In Europe, the incidence is increasing everywhere. Even tougher restrictions and new lockdowns cannot help to contain the spread of the new strain. In the Netherlands, despite the almost complete lockdown since mid-December, the rate of infection spread has peaked – for the first time in the kingdom, over 35 thousand cases were detected per day. In Spain, almost 700 thousand people got infected in a week, in Italy – more than 800 thousand. These are the highest figures for both countries since the pandemic has started. In the UK, about a million cases were registered in a week: the country regularly beats its own records in the number of infections per day. At the same time, the United Kingdom with 80% of the population being vaccinated shows the world’s lowest mortality rates. The pace of the infection spread has seriously speeded up not only in the US and Europe, but in Asia and Latin America as well.
According to the WHO’s forecasts, Omicron will infect more than half of Europe in the next two months. This was stated by Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “50 out of 53 countries of Europe and Central Asia have recorded cases of infection with Omicron. It is rapidly becoming dominant in western Europe and is currently spreading in the Balkans,” the WHO expert says. On January 10, 26 European countries informed WHO that about 1% of their population gets infected with COVID-19 every week. Due to the unprecedented virus transmission scale, the rate of hospitalization is increasing, which creates strong pressure on health systems.
WHO forecasts are not encouraging yet. Thus, the Special Envoy on Covid-19 for the WHO Dr. David Nabarro said that for at least the next three months, the difficult coronavirus situation will continue in the world. “I am afraid that we are moving through a marathon, and there is no real way to say now that we are already at the finish. We can see the finish line, but we are not there yet,” Nabarro stressed. Another representative of the organization, the head of the technical group of the WHO Emergency Diseases Unit, Maria Van Kerkhove, recently said that the Sars-Cov-2 virus is gradually becoming endemic, but stressed that “we have not yet come to this”. One of the indicators of this is, in particular, the new strain’s relatively low lethality. With the sharply increased infection rates, mortality rates, on the contrary, are decreasing: for the second week in a row, less than 40 thousand deaths are registered in the world, which is the minimum since October 2020.
It is noteworthy that for combating new strains, WHO calls for the abandonment of booster doses in favor of creating a new vaccine. The organization’s experts warn that the strategy of simply introducing boosters is not viable against emerging variants of the virus. Against this background, Pfizer has already announced that their vaccine against Omicron will be created this spring.
Moldova vs “Omicron”: Current Situation and Forecasts
Our country did not escape the explosive growth in the COVID-19 incidence at the beginning of the year. In the first week of 2022, the number of new infections per day in Moldova increased by almost 80%. The second week of January was marked by a sharp spike from an average of 700 to 1,500 new cases per day – this is an approximate indicator of the November wave. More than 1,000 people were hospitalized, of which almost 150 are in critical condition and 18 patients are on a mechanical ventilation. In total, 383.5 thousand cases were registered in Moldova, of which 10,406 died.
Experts record the beginning of the fifth wave of morbidity, that will peak, according to forecasts, at the end of February. Meanwhile, in the capital, the state of healthcare emergency has been extended until March 15. The current sanitary rules remain in force – wearing masks in public places, including in crowded places, as well as in transport and enclosed spaces. It is mandatory to maintain the distance. In 5 regions of the country, there is an “orange” threat level in connection with COVID-19, and in 18 more, a “yellow” level is set.
At the beginning of the week, the first cases of infection with Omicron were confirmed in the country: it was found in 16 of 29 samples (sequencing of one sample costs about 2 thousand euros). Health Minister Ala Nemerenсo warns that Omicron may become dominant in Moldova in 2-3 weeks. The Ministry of Health has prepared 3 scenarios to cope with the new wave of the pandemic, which will be implemented depending on the number of cases. In particular, specialists have updated the COVID-19 treatment protocol and are preparing to activate a total of 2,266 beds across the country.
According to the joint forecasts of the Ministry of Health and WHO, Moldova may face an increase in the incidence of up to 3-4 thousand cases per day, however, taking into account that Omicron is not as aggressive as Delta, this will not be an “apocalyptic-case scenario” and the healthcare system must handle it.