The Omicron variant, which studies have shown is more contagious than Delta but generally leads to less severe infection among vaccinated people, has raised long-awaited hopes that Covid-19 is starting to shift from a pandemic to a more manageable endemic illness like seasonal flu.
But Kluge cautioned that it was still too early to consider Covid-19 endemic.
"There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means ... that it is possible to predict what's going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once so we have to be very careful," Kluge said.
With Omicron spreading so widely, other variants could still emerge, he warned.
The European Commissioner for Internal Markets, Thierry Breton, whose brief includes vaccine production, said Sunday that it will be possible to adapt existing vaccines to any new variants that may emerge.
"We will be able to better resist, including to new variants", he told French television LCI.
"We will be ready to adapt the vaccines, especially the mRNA ones, if necessary to adapt them to more virulent variants".
In the WHO Europe region, which comprises 53 countries including several in Central Asia, Omicron represented 15 percent of new cases as of January 18, compared to 6.3 percent a week earlier, the health body said.
- Focus on 'minimising disruption' -
Omicron is now the dominant variant in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA, or Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the EU health agency ECDC said last week.
Because of the very fast spread of the variant across Europe, Kluge said emphasis ought to be on "minimising disruption of hospitals, schools and the economy, and putting huge efforts on protecting the
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