WHO/Europe Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, said:
People are understandably concerned. The European Region was the epicentre of the pandemic even before the emergence of Omicron, with surging cases of the Delta variant. As we go into the holiday season, we are dealing with two highly transmissible variants, with the potential to overwhelm our already overstretched health systems.
But this does not have to be a repeat of last year, when Christmas was cancelled for so many, and families were unable to meet. My message to the people of Europe and central Asia is to exercise caution this holiday season. Use the many tools we have at our disposal. These stabilizers help us to manage the virus and keep people safe.
Get vaccinated as soon as possible, and with the full dose series. Vaccines remain the best way to prevent severe disease and death, even with the arrival of the Omicron variant. If you are eligible for a third dose and it is available to you, take it.
If you plan to attend social gatherings with friends and family, keep them small and if available, take a lateral flow/antigen or PCR test beforehand to make sure that you are not infectious.
Follow other preventive measures, even if you are fully vaccinated. Avoid crowded or confined places. If you can't, wear a well-fitting mask. Observe physical distancing of at least one metre. Ventilate indoor spaces by opening windows and/or doors. Keep your hands clean.
Seek out reliable sources of information that provide advice based on the latest evidence and scientific consensus.
We have come a long way since last year. We have seen inspiring examples of solidarity. We know what works. We know how to keep ourselves and others safe. The emergence of Omicron doesn’t change that. WHO/Europe is in regular contact with experts across the Region and will share further information as soon as it is available.
This holiday season, I hope you enjoy spending time with friends and family, but please do it safely.