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World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned against a common perception surrounding Omicron: It was a mild variant of COVID-19.
At a press briefing in Geneva, Ghebreyesus was quoted by AFP as saying “While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorised as mild.”
He noted Omicron was putting people in hospital and causing deaths “just like previous variants”. He warned the “tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world”.
Ghebreyesus pointed to the figure of 9.5 million COVID cases globally reported to the WHO last week. He pointed out the figure was an underestimate as “it did not reflect the backlog of testing around the Christmas-New Year holidays, positive self-tests not registered and overburdened surveillance systems missing cases”.
Ghebresyesus urged nations to share vaccine doses fairly in 2022. “Vaccine inequity is a killer of people and jobs and it undermines a global economic recovery. Booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected,” the WHO chief was quoted as saying by AFP.
Ghebreyesus noted that first-generation vaccines may not stop all infections and transmission, but they remain highly effective in reducing hospitalisation and death from this virus.
“So as well as vaccination, public health social measures, including the wearing of well-fitting masks, distancing, avoiding crowds and improving and investing in ventilation are important for limiting transmission,” he said.
He lamented that at the current pace of vaccine rollout, 109 countries would miss out on fully vaccinating 70 per cent of their populations by the start of July 2022.
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