The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, has confirmed the rising cases of Omicron infections, with about 90 million coronavirus cases reported across the world since the discovery of the variant.
Mr Ghebreyesus said this on Tuesday at a media briefing on COVID-19, describing the situation as “very worrying,” due to the increase in the number of fatalities, in most regions of the world.
“Since Omicron was first identified just 10 weeks ago, almost 90 million cases have been reported to WHO, more than were reported in the whole of 2020,” he said.
He also confirmed narratives that due to Omicron’s high transmissibility, it might be impossible to prevent its transmission, thereby urging countries to take full measures to prevent its severity.
He said: “Nothing could be further from the truth. More transmission means more deaths. We’re not calling for any country to return to so-called lockdown, but we’re calling on all countries to protect their people using every tool in the toolkit.”
COVID-19 2nd anniversary
Mr Ghebreyesus noted that Sunday, January 29, 2022 marked two years since the WHO declared the public health emergency of international concern, which was the highest level of alarm under international law over the spread of COVID 19.
Giving an estimate, he said there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths reported outside China as of January 2020, but that two years later, “more than 370 million infections and 5.6 million deaths have been reported.”
Mr Ghebreyesus said the Omicron virus is dangerous and it continues to evolve, adding that the WHO is currently tracking four sub-lineages of the variant of concern, including BA.2, a highly contagious Omicron sub-variant.
“This virus will continue to evolve, which is why we call on countries to continue testing, surveillance, and sequencing,” he said.
While Mr Ghebreyesus maintained that countries should not only rely on vaccines but all preventive measures, he said that as this virus evolves, vaccines may also need to evolve.
Before the discovery of the Omicron variant, which has heightened concerns on how to curb the spread of COVID-19, WHO had set a target to vaccinate 10 per cent of every country, economy, and territory by the end of September 2021 but by that date 56 countries had not been able to do so.
WHO came up with a new strategy and concluded to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population of every country by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022.
According to the New York Time vaccine tracker, as of February 1, 2022, more than 4.81 billion people worldwide have received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, equal to about 62.7 per cent of the world population.
Neglected tropical diseases
Speaking on the recent commemoration of World Neglected Tropical Disease Day, the WHO boss said: “The neglected tropical diseases affect the poorest and most marginalised communities and the COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse, badly disrupting services to prevent, detect and treat them.”
He stressed that with support from partners, WHO was able to eliminate tropical diseases in five countries last year.
He said: “The Gambia and Myanmar eliminated trachoma, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo eliminated human African trypanosomiasis and Malawi eliminated Lymphatic Filariasis and only 14 cases of guinea worm disease were reported last year from four countries taking us ever closer to the eradication of this ancient disease.”
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