Should we treat Covid like the flu? Europe is slowly starting to think so

PUBLISHED: Wed, 12 Jan 2022 14:21:25 GMT
Holly Ellyatt
CNBC
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Key Points
  • There are growing calls in Europe for the coronavirus to be treated as an endemic illness, like the flu.
  • Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is the latest leader to suggest it’s time to re-evaluate Covid.
  • Britain’s government has already told the public that it must “to learn to live with the virus.”
People walk in Regent Street, in London.
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LONDON — There are growing calls in Europe for Covid-19 to be treated as an endemic illness like the flu despite strong warnings from global health officials that the pandemic is far from over.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is the latest European leader to stick his head above the parapet by suggesting that it’s time to re-evaluate Covid. He called on the EU to debate the possibility of treating the virus as an endemic illness.

“The situation is not what we faced a year ago,” Sánchez said in a radio interview with Spain’s Cadena SER on Monday as Spanish school children returned to their classrooms after the holidays.

“I think we have to evaluate the evolution of Covid to an endemic illness, from the pandemic we have faced up until now,” he added. Sanchez said it was time to open the debate around a gradual re-appraisal of the pandemic “at the technical level and at the level of health professionals, but also at the European level.”

Read more: Pfizer executives say Covid could become endemic by 2024

Sanchez’s comments mark something of a departure from fellow leaders on the continent, however, with most of them focused on the immediate challenge of tackling alarming numbers of Covid cases caused by the omicron variant, which is highly infectious but widely appearing to cause less severe illness more akin to a cold than the flu symptoms seen with earlier variants.

France, for example, has been reporting over 300,000 new daily cases in recent days and Germany reported 80,430 new infections on Wednesday, the highest recorded in a single day since the pandemic began, according to Reuters.

Sanchez’s comments echo those made in the U.K. by politicians last year with Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the British public that they would have to “learn to live with the virus.”

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