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WHO chief worries about ‘tsunami’ of omicron and delta cases

BERLIN – The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday he was concerned about the combination of the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19 to produce a “tsunami” of cases, but said he still hoped that the world would put the worst of the pandemic behind it in 2022.

Two years after the outbreak of the coronavirus, senior officials at the United Nations health agency warned that it was still too early to be reassured by the first data suggesting that omicron, the latest variant, was leading to a milder disease. First reported last month in southern Africa, it is already the dominant variant in the United States and parts of Europe.

And after 92 of WHO’s 194 member countries missed the goal of vaccinating 40% of their population by the end of this year, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged everyone to take a ” new year “to support a vaccination campaign of 70% of the population of the countries in early July.

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According to WHO figures, the number of recorded COVID-19 cases worldwide increased by 11% last week compared to the previous week, with nearly 4.99 million new cases reported from 20 to 26 December. New cases in Europe – which accounted for more than half of the total – increased by 3% while those in the Americas increased by 39% and there was a 7% increase in Africa. The global gain follows a gradual increase since October.

“I am very concerned that the omicron, being more transmissible (and) circulating with the delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” Tedros said in an online press conference. This, he said, will put “immense 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” from omicron “remains very high”. He cited “consistent evidence” that it has a growth advantage over the delta variant.

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He noted that a decline in the incidence of cases has been observed in South Africa and that early data from that country, the UK and Denmark suggests a reduced risk of hospitalization with omicron, but said that more data is needed.

WHO emergency chief Dr Michael Ryan underscored the note of caution. He said it would be important in the coming weeks to “cut the transmission of both variants to the minimum possible”.

Ryan said omicron infections started largely in young people, “but what we haven’t seen is the fully established omicron wave in the general population. And I’m a little nervous to make positive predictions until we see how well vaccine protection is going to work in these older, more vulnerable populations. “

WHO officials have not commented specifically on decisions by the United States and other countries to reduce periods of self-isolation. Ryan said that “these are judgments countries make” – taking into account scientific, economic and other factors. He noted that the average incubation period to date has been around five to six days.

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“We have to be careful not to change tactics and strategy immediately based on what we see” about omicron, Ryan said.

Tedros reiterated long-standing warnings that “ending health inequalities remains key to ending the pandemic”. He said missing the goal of vaccinating 40% of the population this year “is not just a moral disgrace – it has cost lives and provided the virus with opportunities to circulate unchecked and mutate.”

Countries largely missed the target due to limited supply to low-income countries for most of the year and then vaccines approaching their expiration date, without items such as syringes, he said. -he declares.

All the same, “I remain optimistic that this may be the year when we can not only end the acute phase of the pandemic, but we also chart the course towards heightened health security,” Tedros said.


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