The World Health Organization (WHO) on Jan. 6 has warned against calling the Omicron COVID-19 variant “mild” as it hospitalizes and kills people across the world.
“While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorized as mild,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing.
“Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people. In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world,” Tedros further said in his first speech of 2022.
WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove acknowledged that Omicron “is causing less severe disease,” but warned that “it doesn’t mean it’s just a mild disease.”
“Omicron is not a common cold. It can still cause severe disease, particularly among people who are not vaccinated,” Kerkhove said.
Omicron is more contagious than the previously-dominant Delta variant and can infect those who are fully vaccinated. However, WHO said that vaccines remain critical in protecting against severe disease that could lead to hospitalization.
Tedros urged the world to share vaccine doses more fairly this year to end the “death and destruction” of COVID-19, criticizing rich nations that hoarded doses last year.
“Vaccine inequity is a killer of people and jobs and it undermines a global economic recovery,” Tedros said.
“Booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected,” Tedros further said.
Tedros said that he wanted every country to vaccinate 70% of its population by mid-2022.
According to WHO, 2,618,130 new cases were reported, bringing the global tally to 296,496,809.
Data from WHO also showed that the global death toll has reached 5,462,631.
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