File photograph of Tedros Adhanom, WHO director general. / AFP

WHO warns Omicron variant is spreading 'at a speed never seen before'

The World Health Organization has expressed concern that the public considers this new strain 'as something mild'

EUROPA PRESS

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the Omicron coronavirus strain is advancing "at a speed never seen before", and cases of the variant have been detected in 77 countries. But the organisation warns that "it is present in more countries, but not yet detected."

The director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom, has expressed his concern that public considers Omicron "as something mild" and has clarified that, although reports of its milder nature are true, its rapid spread "could affect health systems again", and reaffirmed that "vaccines alone will not make the pandemic disappear."

“The Omicron variant is spreading at a speed that we have not seen before and we are concerned that people are viewing this variant as mild. We have probably learned that if we underestimate the virus, we will suffer," he stressed.

Health measures "that work"

During a speech, Tedros Adhanom called on countries and their world leaders to continue taking health measures "that work". “It is not about vaccines instead of masks, it is not about vaccines instead of distancing, it is not about vaccines instead of ventilation. You have to do everything and do it well," he stressed.

Higher reinfection rate

In addition, the WHO spokesperson, Adi Mhamud, has confirmed that the first data and studies of the Omicron variant indicate that it has a higher reinfection rate than the rest of the variants. "This shows the significant rate of spread that it has," he said.

The WHO has defended the importance of the booster dose but argued that these vaccination programmes "exacerbate the gap between countries", to which the director general stated that the organisation is "against inequality."

Priority

“It is a question of prioritisation. The order is important. Giving booster doses to groups that are at low risk of death or infection endangers the lives of those who are at high risk,” he stated.

There are still 41 countries worldwide that have not reached ten per cent of people vaccinated among their total population while 98 countries have not achieved 40 per cent vaccination coverage.