BRUSSELS (AP) — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that omicron is expected to be the dominant coronavirus variant in the 27-nation bloc by mid-January.
The head of the EU’s executive branch said the bloc is well prepared to fight omicron with 66.6% of the European population now fully vaccinated against the virus.
Von der Leyen said she is confident the EU has the “strength” and “means” to overcome the disease, although expressing her disappointment that once again year-end celebrations will be disturbed by the pandemic.
“Like many of you, I’m sad that once again this Christmas will be overshadowed by the pandemic,” Von der Leyen.
She added that the EU is now facing a double challenge, with a massive increase of cases in recent weeks due to the delta variant combined with the rise of omicron, as some member countries are already confronted with a record number of infections.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of people falling ill, a greater burden on hospitals and unfortunately an increase in the number of deaths,” she said.
Von der Leyen insisted that the increase in infections remains due “almost exclusively” to the delta variant.
“And what I’m concerned about is that we now seeing the new variant omicron on the horizon, which is apparently even more infectious.”
Thanks to the high rate of vaccination in the bloc and the availability of vaccine doses, Von der Leyen said that Europe is now in a better position to fight the virus. She said that more than 300 million people in the EU have been fully vaccinated and that 62 million people got a booster jab.
“Initial data from omicron shows us that this triple jab is the best protection against the new variant,” she said.