THE head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that he’s worried about the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19 producing a “tsunami” of cases between them, but he’s still hopeful that the world will put the worst of the pandemic behind it in 2022. Two years after the coronavirus first emerged, top officials with the U.N. health agency cautioned that it’s still too early to be reassured by initial data suggesting that omicron, the latest variant, leads to milder disease.
First reported last month in southern Africa, it is already the dominant variant in the United States and parts of Europe. And after 92 of the WHO’s 194 member countries missed a target to vaccinate 40 per cent of their populations by the end of this year, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged everyone to make a “new year’s resolution” to get behind a campaign to vaccinate 70 per cent of countries’ populations by the beginning of July. According to WHO’s figures, the number of COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11 per cent last week compared with the previous week, with nearly 4.99 million newly reported from Dec. 20-26. New cases in Europe — which accounted for more than half of the total — were up 3 per cent while those in the Americas rose 39% and there was a 7 per cent increase in Africa. The global gain followed a gradual increase since October. “I’m highly concerned that omicron, being more transmissible (and) circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” Tedros said.