Global conditions ideal for more virus variants – WHO

Long way to go - Dr Tedros

Global conditions ideal for more virus variants – WHO

Omicron won’t be the last

WHO Director General Dr Tedros said on average 100 cases were reported every three seconds, one every 12 seconds due to COVID last week.

GENEVA, Jan 24 (The CONNECT) - Stating that it is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last COVID variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) today warned the nations that the global conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.

Addressing 150th session of the WHO Executive Board, the UN health body’s general secretary Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “there are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out, and how the acute phase could end – but it is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame.”

Last week, he said, on average 100 cases were reported every three seconds, and somebody lost their life to COVID-19 every 12 seconds.

Since Omicron was first identified just nine weeks ago, more than 80 million cases have been reported to WHO - more than were reported in the whole of 2020.

The next Sunday marks the second anniversary of the declaration of the Pandemic and ever since almost 350 million cases have been reported, and more than 5.5 million deaths, he said and remarked  “and we know these numbers are an underestimate”.

Dr Tedros pointed out that “we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future, and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases, which will provide a platform for preparedness for future pandemics.”

The world cannot afford to ignore the consequences of long COVID, which are yet to be fully understood, he said.

He said vaccines alone are not the golden ticket out of the pandemic. But there is no path out unless we achieve our shared target of vaccinating 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year.

“We have a long way to go,” he said since 86 Member States across all regions have not been able to reach last year’s target of vaccinating 40% of their populations – and 34 Member States, most of them in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region, have not been able to vaccinate even 10% of their populations.

“As much as 85% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine,” Dr Tedros said.

Ending the acute phase of the pandemic must remain our collective priority, he pointed out and stressed: “One of the greatest risks now is that we move on to the next crisis and forget the lessons the pandemic has taught us – lessons that have come at a great price.

The most important of those lessons is the centrality of health. COVID-19 is so much more than a pandemic – it is a global crisis that touches every area of life: economics, education, families, employment, business, technology, trade, travel, tourism, politics, security – and so much more. It’s a very long list, he said.

When health is at risk, everything is at risk and the pandemic is a brutal reminder that health is not a by-product of development, not an outcome of prosperous societies, Dr Tedros said.

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