The world is headed to a familiar route as far as COVID-19 is concerned. The Omicron variant is spreading although some claim that it is milder or more of a flu-like illness.

But as far as the World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned, it should not yet be treated as an endemic flu-like illness, Reuters reported.

"At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6-8 weeks," WHO's Europe director Hans Kluge said in a news briefing.

In Europe alone, more than 7 million reported new cases were reported in the first week of 2022. But the alarming part is that it has doubled over two weeks with various regions revealing alarming cases of the more infectious variant.

Also, there is now evidence emerging that Omicron is affecting the upper respiratory tract more than the lungs, causing milder symptoms than previous variants. However, WHO cautioned that more studies are needed to back this up.

This comes days after Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said it may be time to change how it tracks COVID-19's evolution to instead use a method similar to flu because its lethality has fallen.

This implies treating the virus as an endemic illness rather than a pandemic without recording every case and without testing all people presenting symptoms.

Unfortunately, WHO senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood feels otherwise. She bats that endemicity requires a stable and predictable transmission.

"We still have a huge amount of uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quite quickly, imposing new challenges. We are certainly not at the point where we are able to call it endemic," Smallwood said. "It may become endemic in due course, but pinning that down to 2022 is a little bit difficult at this stage."

A lab technician manipulates Covid-19 PCR tests at a free mobile testing facility set by Limas municipality in the populous district of La Victoria
Representation image. Getty Images | Cris BOURONCLE / AFP

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