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Signs that the omicron virus may be retreating in some countries provide hope that the worst may soon be over. A short, sharp surge in cases echoes the experience in South Africa, where omicron was first reported.

Switzerland’s interior minister said the transition from pandemic to a stage where the country learns to live with Covid-19 like the flu may be in sight. “We may be on the eve of a watershed, the transition from a pandemic phase to an endemic phase," Alain Berset, whose ministry includes health, said at a media conference Wednesday.

Berset’s comments follow a call by Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday to consider treating the crisis differently, given that the omicron wave of infections hasn’t led to an equivalent surge in hospitalizations and deaths. 

Sanchez said Europe should consider the possibility of treating Covid-19 as an endemic illness instead of a pandemic, moving monitoring closer to the model used for flu.

The arrival of the omicron variant has seen lower rates of hospitalizations and deaths than previous strains, prompting authorities across the continent to rethink their policies.

Britain’s Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, told the BBC on Sunday the U.K. is “on a path towards transitioning from pandemic to endemic."

Covid infection rates are falling in London, raising hopes that the omicron outbreak is in retreat. Infections for the U.K. increased to 4.3 million in the first week of January, up from 3.7 million a week earlier, the Office for National Statistics said. England accounted for the bulk, at just over 3.7 million, and the highest infection rate at 1-in-15.

But cases in London, which has been at the epicenter of the U.K. outbreak, dropped from 1 in 10 to 1 in 15. The hot spots are now the North West of England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where 1 in 10 people have Covid.

Denmark’s government is set to propose the reopening of cinemas and museums from next week, despite record high daily infections.

The Nordic country shut down cultural venues before Christmas to halt the spread of the omicron variant. But with recent data suggesting that patients are less likely to have severe illness, Danish health experts recommend a slow return to normalcy.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen supports the recommendation, she told reporters in Copenhagen. The government is expected to announce its decision later on Wednesday pending support from a majority in parliament.

 

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