(HealthDay News) – The European Union (EU) announced Wednesday that Europe is moving out of the emergency phase of the pandemic, and the EU will now focus on vaccination, surveillance and testing in preparation for a possible COVID surge next fall.
“New variants can emerge and spread fast,” said EU President Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, The New York Times reported. “But we know the way forward. We need to further step up vaccination and boosting, and targeted testing — and we need to continue to coordinate our responses closely in the E.U.”
The announcement is not binding and national governments within the EU will still be able to set their own public health policies. Several have dropped restrictions recently, the Times reported.
Deaths and hospitalizations throughout the EU have decreased as the less severe Omicron variant has become prevalent. About three-quarters of Europeans are fully vaccinated. More than half have also received a booster shot, according to the Times.
In the United States, about 60% of Americans now have antibodies that show they were infected with COVID-19 at least once, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After first saying Tuesday that the United States was out of the pandemic phase, Dr. Anthony Fauci later said the United States had entered the “control” stage of the pandemic, with far lower levels of hospitalizations and deaths than during the winter surge of the Omicron variant.
Still, World Health Organization (WHO) leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged caution, warning about a sharp reduction in testing, which he said risked leaving the world blind as new COVID variants potentially emerge, according to the Times.
“When it comes to the deadly virus, ignorance is not a bliss,” Ghebreyesus said.
The World Health Organization has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: The New York Times; Washington Post