GENEVA: In a statement released on Tuesday, WHO director Margaret Chan warned that the fast-spreading Omicron strain is not risk-free and that the COVID-19 epidemic is far from ended.
“This pandemic is nowhere near over,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.
After being discovered in Southern Africa in November, the coronavirus variant of Omicron has been making the rounds worldwide like wildfire, prompting the head of the UN health agency to issue a warning against dismissing it as benign. However, it is more infectious than earlier strains, nevertheless, Covid-19 Omicron produces less severe illness.
People are contemplating whether the virus is close to becoming an endemic sickness that humans can live with, which would then mean that the threat is no longer present. However, the World Health Organization has cautioned that the sheer number of persons infected would lead to many people being extremely ill and even dying.
WHO emergency director Michael Ryan told a news conference on Tuesday that they expect an increase in hospitalisations and fatalities when cases increase at an exponential rate, regardless of the severity of the individual varieties.
He stressed that Omicron may be less severe, but that they have misrepresented it as a benign sickness. Health care institutions are being overrun by less severe cases of Omicron, as well as severe hospitalisations and fatalities because of it. A peak in the Omicron-induced increase in COVID cases may have been reached, as per him.
He additionally added, “there’s hope that the worst of this new wave has passed, but no country is out of the woods yet.” Tedros stressed the need of relieving the strain on health services, particularly in nations where immunisation rates are low. A few days ago, he observed, “Now is not a suitable moment to give up.”
Public health and social policies that have been proven beneficial can still very much lessen the effects of the current wave. The WHO’s technical head on Covid, Maria Van Kerkhove, concurred, pointing out that the COVID was still causing 45,000 fatalities every week throughout the world. In an interview with reporters, she said, “That shouldn’t be occurring, because we have tools at hand.”
Current COVID vaccinations appear to be less successful at preventing Omicron transmission than they were against prior strains, according to research.
Some pharmaceutical firms are working on vaccinations that specifically target this variation, but the WHO warned it will not always be the best course of action. Variant-specific vaccinations seem appealing, but WHO head scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned that because they take months to create, “the worry is that you will continually try to play catch-up with the next variant.” Her suggestion was to look into creating “multivalent vaccinations” or, in the ideal world, a “panto coronavirus vaccine” as an alternative method.
Meanwhile, WHO reiterated the significance of promoting greater, more equal access to immunizations, saying that current vaccines still provide good protection against the development of severe Covid illness.
“When it comes to avoiding Omicron infection and transmission, vaccines may be less efficient than they were for prior versions. However, they are still very good at preventing major disease and death,” Tedros stated in an interview.
Allowing Covid to expand unchecked in some areas significantly raises the risk of new, more deadly forms of the disease arising. “New varieties are likely to develop with the unprecedented expansion of Omicron internationally,” Tedros noted.