The WHO mentioned the worldwide surge in instances was being pushed by Omicron, which is extra transmissible than the beforehand dominant Delta variant.
Greater than 15 million instances had been reported to the WHO final week — with thousands and thousands extra instances thought to have gone unrecorded.
However the UN well being company insisted there must be no give up to the variant, dismissing the notion that it could possibly be a welcome conduit to ending the pandemic.
“Whereas Omicron causes much less extreme illness than Delta, it stays a harmful virus — significantly for many who are unvaccinated,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus informed a press convention.
“We mustn’t enable this virus a free experience or wave the white flag, particularly when so many individuals around the globe stay unvaccinated.”
The “overwhelming majority” of individuals admitted to hospitals are unjabbed, he added.
Whereas vaccines stay very efficient at stopping dying and extreme Covid-19 illness, they don’t totally stop transmission, mentioned Tedros.
“Extra transmission means extra hospitalisations, extra deaths, extra individuals off work — together with academics and well being employees — and extra threat of one other variant rising that’s much more transmissible and extra lethal than Omicron.”
Tedros mentioned that the numbers of deaths worldwide had stabilised at round 50,000 per week.
“Studying to dwell with this virus doesn’t imply we will, or ought to, settle for this variety of deaths,” he mentioned.
– Vaccine inequity –
Tedros needed each nation to have 10 % of their inhabitants vaccinated by the top of September 2021, 40 % by the top of December, and 70 % by mid-2022.
However 90 nations have nonetheless not reached 40 % — with 36 of them nonetheless in need of the 10-percent mark, he mentioned.
“In Africa, over 85 % of persons are but to obtain a single dose of vaccine. We will not finish the acute part of the pandemic until we shut this hole,” mentioned Tedros.
Wealthier nations had made it “thrice as onerous” for dose-starved low-income nations by exporting misinformation fairly than vaccines, mentioned Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s frontman on accessing coronavirus instruments.
The WHO says Omicron had been recognized in 149 nations by January 6.
Some hope that resulting from its elevated transmissibility, Omicron will exchange extra extreme variants and see Covid-19 shift from a pandemic into an endemic illness that’s extra manageable.
However WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan mentioned: “This isn’t the time to declare it is a welcome virus.”
Maria Van Kerkhove the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, mentioned it was tough to foretell the street forward and Omicron was unlikely to be the final variant preoccupying minds on the UN well being company.
“We count on the virus will proceed to evolve and change into more healthy… we count on to see outbreaks amongst unvaccinated people,” she mentioned.
“The virus is nicely on its technique to changing into endemic — however we’re not there but.”
In the meantime Tedros mentioned pregnant girls weren’t at larger threat of catching Covid-19, however had been at larger threat of creating extreme illness in the event that they did so.
He known as for pregnant girls to have entry to vaccines, and to be included in trials for brand spanking new remedies and jabs.