The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concerned about ‘tsunami’ of Omicron, Delta cases

The head of the World Health Organization is concerned Omicron and Delta variants of COVID-19 combined to produce a “tsunami” of cases, but still hopeful that the world will put the worst pandemic behind in 2022.

Two years after the coronavirus first appeared, top UN health officials warned on Wednesday that it was still too early to be reassured by the first data suggesting that Omicron, the latest variant, was leading to milder disease.

The World Health Organization’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on everyone to make a “New Year’s resolution” to support a campaign to vaccinate 70 percent of the country’s population in early July. (AP Photo / Alessandra Tarantino, file) (AP)

And after 92 of the WHO’s 194 member states missed a target of vaccinating 40 percent of their populations by the end of this year, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged everyone to make a “New Year’s resolution” to stand behind a vaccination campaign. 70 percent of the countries’ population in early July.

According to WHO figures, the number of COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11 percent last week compared to the previous week, with almost 4.99 million new reported from 20-26. December.

New cases in Europe – which accounted for more than half of the total – rose 3 percent, while those in America rose 39 percent and there was a 7 percent increase in Africa. The global gain followed a gradual increase since October.

“I am very concerned that Omicron, which is more transferable (and) circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” said Dr. Tedros at an online news conference.

That, he said, would put “enormous pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse.”

The WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report that the “overall risk” related to Omicron “remains very high”.

It cited “consistent evidence” that it has a growth advantage over the Delta variant.

Medical workers wearing protective gear are preparing to take samples at a temporary coronavirus screening clinic in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. (AP Photo / Lee Jin-man) (AP)

It noted that a drop in cases had been seen in cases in South Africa and that early data from the country, UK and Denmark suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization with Omicron, but said more data was needed.

WHO’s Head of Emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan, underlined this warning.

He said it would be important in the coming weeks to “suppress transmission of both variants to the minimum we can.”

Dr. Ryan said that Omicron infections mostly started among young people /

“What we have not seen is the omicron wave is fully established in the wider population,” he said.

“And I’m a little nervous about making positive predictions until we see how well vaccine protection will work in the older and more vulnerable populations.”

A health worker collects a cotton swab sample from a woman to test for COVID-19 at a market in Jammu, India on Wednesday. (AP Photo / Channi Anand) (AP)
WHO officials did not offer specific comments on WHO decisions United States and other countrieses to reduce periods of self-isolation.

Dr. Ryan said that “these are judgments that countries make” – taking into account scientific, economic and other factors. He noted that the average incubation period to date has been about five to six days.

“We need to be careful about changing tactics and strategies right away based on what we see,” he said, referring to Omicron.

Dr. Tedro’s renewed long-standing warnings that “stopping inequality in health remains the key to ending the pandemic”.

He said missing out on the goal of getting 40 percent of the population vaccinated this year “is not just a moral shame – it cost lives and gave the virus opportunities to circulate uncontrollably and mutate.”

Countries largely missed the target due to limited supply to low-income countries for most of the year and then vaccines arriving close to their expiration date, without things like syringes, he said.

“I remain optimistic that this could be the year in which we can not only end the acute stage of the pandemic, but we are also mapping out a path to stronger health security,” said Dr. Tedros.

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