(NewsNation Now) — The World Health Organization is pushing back on Spanish officials who want the European Union to treat COVID-19 as if it’s reached endemic status.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wants the EU to treat the virus like other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, and ease off the daily life disruptions and endless statistics.
But Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe, says, “We’re still a way off” from endemicity because the virus is still unpredictable.
COVID-19 cases in Europe rocketed upward to close 2021. The numbers doubled to 7 million in just two weeks.
The discourse across the Atlantic mirrors talking points heard in the United States.
“We can’t forget that most of the problems we have today are due to the fact that there are still some unvaccinated people,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said. He’s been under fire for making vaccines mandatory for people older than 50.
In the U.S., experts seem to agree co-existing with COVID-19 is our reality. The question is what that means.
“We still know and understand that vaccination provides protection against those most severe cases — against hospitalization, severe disease and death,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System.
Lizzie Stephens, an American athlete living in Spain, said people there are getting back to their daily lives, but still wearing masks and getting vaccinated.
“I like that they’re trying to find ways to not completely shut everything down,” Stephens said, “and still keep operating and create as normal a life as you can.”
In Europe, the definition of normal life changes with the country and the case count. While this may work for Spain, health officials in France, Germany, Italy and Romania say it’s too early to talk about endemic COVID-19.
“I think after the omicron surge it will be,” University of California San Francisco infectious disease specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi said on “NewsNation Prime” on Tuesday. “But we need to get through this surge first.”
Gandhi is optimistic the Biden administration will recommend looser restrictions, such as masking for those that want it as opposed to mandates once cases subside and an emphasis on oral therapeutics to keep people out of the hospital.