Winter could bring spike in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths, WHO warns

Winter could bring spike in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths, WHO warns
Credit: Belga/Benoit Doppagne

The latest peak in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations is only just behind us; however, the onset of the winter could bring a turn for the worse, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Wednesday evening.

The arrival of the winter in the northern hemisphere (the EU, UK, US and Canada) could see a sudden spike in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We are now seeing a welcome decline in reported deaths globally. However, with colder weather approaching in the northern hemisphere, it’s reasonable to expect an increase in hospitalisations and deaths in the coming months,” he said.

In Belgium, an average of 64 patients suffering from Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals each day, while some 1,546 new daily infections were recorded. Last winter, the number of cases peaked at 52,000 per day, while hospitalisations almost reached 370.

“We have made great strides in addressing the pandemic. But the virus is still circulating widely, still putting people in hospital, still causing too many preventable deaths – some 3,000 in the past week alone, about a third of the global recorded total," Dr Hans Kluge, Director of WHO’s Europe Office, said.

Caution for variants

Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of being vaccinated against the virus or getting boosters if previous shots have already been administered, as the variants of the Omicron variety remain dominant.

“Subvariants of Omicron are more transmissible than their predecessors, and the risk of even more transmissible and more dangerous variants remains," he said.

Belgium has started inviting a larger group for a second booster dose. In all regions, the campaign will start with the most vulnerable people and healthcare workers in the first phase, and later in the month, will make the additional dose available to all people aged over 18 on a voluntary basis.

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He added that vaccination coverage among the most at-risk groups — such as health workers and older people — also remains too low in many countries, especially poorer countries and that other steps should be taken, including avoiding crowds, especially indoors, and wearing a face mask.

“Living with COVID-19 doesn’t mean pretending the pandemic is over. If you go walking in the rain without an umbrella, pretending it’s not raining won’t help you. You’ll still get wet. Likewise, pretending a deadly virus is not circulating is a huge risk,” he said.

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