The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against classifying the omicron variant of the coronavirus as “mild”. “Just like previous variants, people have to go to hospital because of Omicron, and it kills people,” said WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva on Thursday. Even if Omikron apparently mostly lead to less severe disease courses than the previously prevalent delta variant, the variant should therefore not be rated as “mild”.
The “tidal wave” of new infections from the Omikron variant is “so huge and fast” that it is overloading the health system worldwide, warned Tedros. According to the WHO, almost 9.5 million new infections with the coronavirus were reported worldwide in the last week, 71 percent more than in the previous week and a new high. The actual number is likely to be significantly higher because of the decline in tests associated with holidays, said the WHO director.
The numbers refer to the week from December 27th to January 2nd. In these seven days around the turn of the year, 41,000 new facilities were reported worldwide. In total, around 289 million corona infections and 5.4 million fatalities have been registered since the pandemic began two years ago. In North and South America, the number of new infections died within that single week. In Europe the increase was 65 percent.
The WHO chief again denounced the actions of rich countries that would have used a large part of the available corona vaccination doses for themselves. Such action creates an ideal breeding ground for the death of new virus variants in countries with poor access to vaccination doses, warned Tedros.
Uneven distribution of vaccines
The WHO had set itself the goal that ten percent of the population in each member country should be vaccinated by the end of September 2021, and by the end of December 2021 it should be as much as 40 percent. 92 of the 194 referrals by WHO – 36 countries have not even vaccinated 10 percent of their citizens.
The WHO chief is therefore again calling for the vaccines to be distributed fairly. “Booster vaccination after vaccination in a small number of countries WILL NOT stop a pandemic if, at the same time, billions of people are left completely unprotected,” he said. He again criticized the unfair distribution of vaccines around the world. Around 90 countries still do not have enough vaccines to vaccinate 40 percent of their population, said expert Bruce Aylward.
WHO chief Tedros said: “The unequal distribution of vaccines is killing people and jobs and is undermining the economic boom.” Low vaccination rates are dangerous for the whole world. “Alpha, beta, delta, gamma and omicron show that partly because of the possible vaccination rates we have the best conditions for the occurrence of virus variants.”
WHO expert Maria Van Kerkhovein emphasizes that it is “very unlikely” that Omikron will be the last variant before the end of the pandemic. In view of the increased risk of infection from the variant, she called on people dying to follow hygiene measures better: “DO everything we advise you to do better, more comprehensively and more specifically.”
“We will overcome this pandemic”
Anyone could fit in to reduce the number of infections, said Maria van Kerkhove. This included: keeping your distance from people outside your own household, wearing well-fitting masks correctly over your nose and mouth – not under your nose or on your chin – and staying in a well-ventilated room if possible. “Avoid crowded places,” said van Kerkhove. Schools, authorities and companies should invest in good ventilation systems. At the same time, she warned not to panic. “Don’t give up, we will overcome this pandemic together.”
APA / UT24