Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO, WHO chief, covid vaccine

Omicron isn’t mild; it’s hospitalising and killing people, warns WHO director

World News

The World Health Organisation director on Thursday said that the omicron variant of Covid-19 shouldn’t necessarily be categorised as “mild.”

While omicron appears to be less severe than the delta variant, especially among people who have been vaccinated, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it does not mean it should be categorised as “mild”.

“Just like previous variants omicron is hospitalising people, and it’s killing people,” he said. “In fact the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick that it is overwhelming health systems around the world,” he added.

“Last week the highest number of Covid-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus. He said that the WHO was certain that figure was an underestimate, because of a backlog in testing around the year end holidays.

The WHO said on Thursday that a record 9.5 million cases of Covid-19 were tallied around the world last week, noting a 71% surge in the weekly count of infections amounting to a tsunami, as the new omicron variant sweeps worldwide.

The UN health agency in its weekly report on the pandemic said that the weekly count amounted to 95,20,488 new cases. However the number of recorded deaths declined with 41,178 recorded last week, compared to 44,680 in the week before that.

The WHO said the rise in case counts over the last week varied. It doubled in the Americas region but rose only 7% in Africa.

The WHO emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan said that the speculation that omicron might be the last variant of the outbreak was wishful thinking. “There still is a lot of energy in this virus,” he cautioned.

“I think it’s very unlikely that omicron will be the last variant that you will hear us discussing,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19.

WHO officials called on the public to step up measures to fight the pandemic like getting vaccinated, ventilating rooms, maintaining proper physical distancing and wearing masks — but properly.

“I’m struck by how people actually are wearing masks,” said Kerkhove.

“Wearing a mask below your chin is useless And it gives you a false sense of security that you have something on that is protecting you. It will not. Basically we are asking everyone to play a part in this.”

Separately Ryan said that the health agency’s work with the International Olympic Committee and China – which is set to host the 2022 Winter Games – led him to be confident that the measures that games organisers have put in place were very strict and strong.

“We don’t at this point see any increased risk of disease transmission in that context,” Ryan said.

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