Nearly 80 per cent of the European Union's population is estimated to have been infected by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the bloc's executive body has said. The figures were reached by calculating the unreported infections that could be as high as 350 million or 77 per cent of Europe's population, the European Commission said, Bloomberg reported.
As the EU prepares to enter a post-emergency phase in which mass reporting of cases is no longer necessary, governments should ramp up vaccination of children against the virus, a senior official of the European Commission said, adding that it is considering plans to develop antivirals.
"It is estimated that between 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the EU population has by now had COVID," EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. The commission said reported cases covered about 30 per cent of the European population so far.
With a recent drop in infections and deaths related to the virus, the bloc is now shifting away from mass testing and reporting of cases, Kyriakides said.
However, as fresh surges are likely with the virus expected to continue mutating, countries should have in place plans to shift back into emergency mode, and ramp up vaccinations, the commission said.
The bloc has been urging governments to continue pushing for the immunisation of the unvaccinated, especially children before the start of the new school term in the autumn.
Immunisation rates are below 15 per cent among children aged between five and nine, the youngest age group for which Covid-19 vaccines have been authorised in Europe.
The commission also said it could back the development of new drugs against Covid-19, especially antivirals that are easier to store and administer.
Antiviral pills against Covid-19 developed by Pfizer and Merck & Co have been approved for use in the EU, but they have not been used in large quantities so far.
The EU executive also said it would work to support the development of the next generation of vaccines that would offer longer protection against the infection or its transmission.