EU govt warns of COVID rise in winter, urges booster shots

An elderly man sits at the "Viktualienmarkt" daily food market, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Munich, Germany, March 18, 2020. (ANDREAS GEBERT / REUTERS)

COPENHAGEN / MOSCOW / THE HAGUE – The EU's medicines regulator on Thursday urged Europe to prepare for a new wave of COVID-19 as "cold winter months" arrive.

"Over the last weeks we have not seen a major increase in COVID-19 case rates in the EU as a result of rising immunity following vaccinations and natural infections," Marco Cavaleri, head of Health Threats and Vaccines Strategy of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), told an online press briefing.

"However, this could change rapidly as we are getting into the cold winter months," Cavaleri said. "This virus is maintaining a fast pace in its evolution and new subvariants of Omicron such as BQ.1.1 and its offsprings are on the rise and replacing Omicron BA.5."

These strains show "an increased propensity for immune evasion and growth advantage," he noted, expressing concern that new subvariants like BQ.1.1 are "escaping neutralization by the currently available monoclonal antibody products, which is expected to translate into poor clinical efficacy."

Vaccine booster uptake in the last few months has been "rather disappointing," with the European average rate at only 29 percent in people at highest risk, including those aged above 60 with chronic conditions and immunocompromised, he said.

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It is of concern that those most at risk of hospitalization or severe COVID-19 are not adequately protected, he said, calling for more efforts to increase the revaccination rate of vulnerable groups to avoid rising hospitalization in the coming months.

A demonstrator holds up a placard reading 'How can they give us what is ours' during a march to protest against Covid-19 restrictions in Denmark, in Copenhagen on Jan 9, 2022, marking the first anniversary of the anti-vaccination movement 'Men in Black'. (THIBAULT SAVARY / AFP)


A decrease in new hospitalizations for the coronavirus in Denmark has been attributed to the booster vaccine, according to a report from Denmark's Statens Serum Institut (SSI) on Thursday.

Approximately 72 percent of the population aged over 50 has received a booster vaccination, Denmark's Statens Serum Institut said

"Our analyzes of vaccine effectiveness show that people who have received the fourth jab since Sept 15, 2022 are well protected against COVID-19 hospitalization and approximately 75 percent better protected than people who have only received three jabs," said Bolette Soborg, senior physician at SSI.

Approximately 72 percent of the population aged over 50 has received a booster vaccination, SSI said.

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Russia registered 5,784 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 21,556,766, said the official monitoring and response center on Thursday.

The center said the nationwide death toll increased by 58 to 391,680, while the number of recoveries grew by 6,112 to 20,967,429.