WHO warns against calling the omicron variant of covid “mild”

  • Tedros recalls that the disease causes pressure in hospitals and kills people around the world

  • Demand that vaccination be extended to the third world before spreading a fourth dose

The omicron variant of covid-19 is killing people in the world and therefore should not be classified as “mild,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.

The director of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recalled that the high number of cases caused by omicron, more contagious than the previous delta variant, has caused pressure on hospitals. “Although omicron appears to be less severe compared to delta, especially for vaccinated people, it does not mean that it should be classified as mild,” he told a news conference.

“Like the previous variants, omicron causes hospitalizations and is killing people,” he insisted, adding that the exponential increase in infections “is overwhelming health systems around the world.”

Last week, some 9.5 million new infections by covid-19 were notified to the WHO, a record. The figure increased 71% from the previous week. However, the WHO chief recalls that the real figure is probably higher.

Against hoarding

He also used his first speech in 2022 to criticize the way in which rich countries hoarded the doses of available vaccines last year, saying that the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of variants of the virus had been created, and urged the world to distribute doses in a more fair way.

It is “very unlikely that omicron is the last variant that is heard of, it will not be the last worrying variant,” warned the technical director in charge of the WHO covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove.

The WHO’s goal was for all countries to have 10% of their population vaccinated by the end of September 2021 and 40% by the end of December. Of the 194 Member States of the WHO, 92 did not reach the target set and, in fact, 36 of them had not even vaccinated 10% of their population, largely due to the inability to access the doses.

“Inequality in access to vaccines kills people and jobs and undermines the global economic recovery,” the WHO chief insisted. “One booster dose after another in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected,” he denounced.

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Subvariant under study

Van Kerkhove commented that the agency is monitoring the subvariant B.1.640.2, recently detected in France and called IHU, although it clarifies that “it is not circulating very actively.” Specifically, it has detailed that it is a subvariant of the B.1.640 strain, whose first cases were detected in September 2021 in a series of countries and that it was already categorized as a variant “under supervision” by the WHO in November of this same anus. “This variant represents less than 1 percent of the samples in France. There are two subvariants: B.1.640.1 and B.1.640.2, and it is important that we follow them, due to the number of mutations it has, but it is not circulating very actively “, added Van Kerkhove. “It is quite common for this situation to occur,” the WHO epidemiologist reassured, emphasizing that “current vaccines against Covid-19 work for all active variants.”


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