WHO chief worried about ‘tsunami’ of Omicron, Delta cases

·2 min read

BERLIN — The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that he’s worried about the Omicron and Delta variants of Covid-19 producing a “tsunami” of cases between them, but he’s still hopeful that the world will put the worst of the pandemic behind it in 2022.

Two years after the coronavirus first emerged, top officials with the UN health agency cautioned that it’s still too early to be reassured by initial data suggesting that Omicron, the latest variant, leads to milder disease. First reported last month in southern Africa, it is already the dominant variant in the United States and parts of Europe.

After 92 of the WHO’s 194 member countries missed a target to vaccinate 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 get behind a campaign to vaccinate 70 percent of countries’ populations by the beginning of July.

According to WHO’s figures, the number of Covid-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11 percent last week compared with the previous week, with nearly 4.99 million newly reported from Dec. 20-26. New cases in Europe —which accounted for more than half of the total—were up three percent while those in the Americas rose 39 percent and there was a seven percent increase in Africa. The global gain followed a gradual increase since October.

“I’m highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible (and) circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” Tedros said at an online news conference. That, he said, will put “immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse.”

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.

It noted that a decline in case incidence has been seen in South Africa, and that early data from that country, the UK and Denmark suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization with Omicron, but said that more data is needed.

WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, underlined that note of caution. He said it will be important in coming weeks to “suppress transmission of both variants to the minimum that we can.” (AP)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting