Low Vaccine Eastern European Orthodontic Appliances for Omicron Surge – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio

SIBIU, Romania – (AP) – As the rapidly spreading variant of the omicron coronavirus rages in Western Europe, low-immunized Eastern European officials and experts predict a post-holiday explosion of COVID-19 cases in much of the region.

Many countries in Eastern Europe have only recently emerged from waves of infection that have put catastrophic pressure on health systems and at times recorded some of the highest pandemic death rates in the world.

Now, with omicron already confirmed in the region and the winter holidays bringing more community gatherings and international travel, public health officials predict a sharp rise in the virus in the coming weeks.

Adriana Pistol, director of Romania’s National Center for Communicable Disease Surveillance and Control, warned on Wednesday that the country could peak at 25,000 new cases daily in the expected next wave. Romania is the second least vaccinated member country of the European Union.

Noting that around 60% of Romanians over 65 or living with chronic diseases are still not vaccinated, Pistol said: “Even though the omicron strain does not have the same level of severity (,) … the health system will be overloaded anyway and reach the levels recorded this year in October.

Romania saw huge lines at the borders before Christmas as hundreds of thousands of citizens flocked to their homes, many from the West. The government began requiring travelers to complete passenger locator forms from December 20 to help track infections, but Pistol said many did not complete them.

Only 40% of Romania’s population of around 19 million has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Although booster doses are believed to be necessary to provide adequate protection against omicron, Pistol noted that three-quarters of fully bitten individuals nationwide have yet to receive an additional vaccine.

Romania’s underfunded public health system was on the verge of collapse a few months ago, when there was the latest outbreak of virus cases in the country. Mortuaries at the hospital ran out of space for bodies, and some patients were transferred overseas for treatment as COVID-19 intensive care units were full.

Exhausted medical staff have watched in dismay as countries with high vaccination rates such as France, Italy and the UK have reported record cases as omicron has spread in recent days.

“It is very clear that the fifth wave will probably hit us in January,” said Dragos Zaharia, primary care physician at the Marius Nasta Institute of Pulmonology in Bucharest. “We just hope there will be fewer deaths, fewer serious cases and fewer hospitalizations.”

Neighboring Bulgaria is the least vaccinated member of the EU, with just 32% of adults having received a full vaccine. He also suffered an epidemic of fatal fall, but the rollout of his vaccine continued at a slow pace. Government data shows that only 255,000 booster shots were given in the country of 7 million people.

“Epidemiologists predict that the fifth wave will hit Bulgaria at the end of January and probably harder in February,” Mariya Sharkova, a public health law specialist based in Plovdiv, told The Associated Press. “The holidays will bring omicron to Bulgaria and likely have a negative impact on the spread of COVID-19. “

In the Balkan region of Europe, Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia have all confirmed cases of omicron but have so far failed to tighten restrictions to control the spread of the variant.

Serbian authorities decided this week to allow outdoor concerts scheduled for New Year’s Eve. Experts opposed the move and called for requiring 24-hour COVID-19 status passes in due to omicron problems.

“We are aware that a significant number of our nationals will be returning home from the European Union for holidays, as well as (…) foreign guests visiting our ski resorts,” said Goran Cerkez, Deputy Minister of Health of the larger of the two countries highly autonomous regions. “But we hope we get over what lies ahead.”

The Czech Republic, with a population of 10.7 million, is among the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic and is currently registering around 6,000 new cases per day. The country’s health ministry estimated on Wednesday that the omicron variant currently accounts for around 10% of all new cases and could account for 25% by January 10.

Some experts warn of the reassurance of preliminary studies that suggest the omicron variant causes milder cases of COVID-19.

Mircea Iliescu, a Romanian doctorate in human evolutionary genetics at the University of Cambridge, says that even if this is the case, Romania “still has a lot of people who are likely to be hospitalized”.

“We can only assume that many cases transmitted now are of omicron, because it transmits so quickly compared to delta,” he said. weeks. “

Despite concerns over the variant, Romanian authorities relaxed some internal restrictions in early December and allow businesses to stay open all night on New Years Eve.

Andrei Otelea, 31, who lives in the UK and is not vaccinated against COVID-19, arrived with his young family at Sibiu International Airport in central Romania on Tuesday, returning home for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“We’re a little scared (to visit the grandparents), but we’re going to keep our distance for now,” Otelea said.

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Area Associated Press editors contributed to this report.

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Follow all of AP’s stories about the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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