Speaking in an interview with Spain's La Vanguardia newspaper, WHO's European Director Hans Kluge warned that the COVID pandemic, which has been raging for nearly two years now, won't end until nations "learn to live with the virus", and build health-care systems that are strong enough so that they are not overwhelmed by infections and deaths if newly infectious variants ever emerge.
Kluge warned that the international health body is not able to declare an end to the pandemic while there is still a risk that health systems may be unable to cope with a spike in case numbers. But the problem is, the likelihood that every health system in the world can verifiably achieve such goals is pretty close to nil.
"We have to learn to live with the virus. As soon as our health system is not overwhelmed by hospitalizations and deaths from Covid, that is, it can provide the services it provided before, the pandemic will possibly become an endemic," Kluge said.
The comments from the WHO's Europe boss come as he addresses concerns about the situation on the Continent ahead of what's expected to be a cold, dark winter.
Responding to a question about whether "Europe is once again the epicenter of the pandemic," Kluge flagged that the WHO is expecting "half a million deaths" from the virus before February. Kluge blamed a combination of "fake news" and the "relaxation of public health and social measures," for this projection. Kluge was clear that countries have to refute opposition to the COVID vaccine and safety protocols, and proposed a "working group in Europe" to challenge critics.
Despite these concerns Kluge said the situation would have been "very difficult" without the, so far, effective vaccine rollout. However, for vaccinations to be fully effective, Kluge stressed that countries must "leave no one behind" and focus on booster shots and inoculating children to maximize the coverage provided and to reduce the spread of the virus.
To be sure, Kluge's view on vaccinations - particularly when it comes to children - is far from indisputable science. In fact, anybody who's interested in learning more about the opposing view can attend a virtual debate being held by a top NIH scientist named Dr. Matthew Memoli.