The acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic could end next year but the coronavirus will not disappear, the World Health Organization’s Mike Ryan said on Wednesday.
Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, also said it was too early to draw conclusions on the severity of the Omicron variant until it had spread more widely to older people.
Almost 900,000 cases were detected on average each day around the world between Dec. 22 and 28, with myriad countries posting new all-time highs in the previous 24 hours, including the United States, Australia, many in Europe and Bolivia.
Almost two years after China first alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to a cluster of “viral pneumonia” cases of unknown origin in the city of Wuhan, the regularly mutating coronavirus is still wreaking havoc, forcing numerous governments to rethink quarantine and test rules.
Although studies have suggested Omicron is less deadly than some previous variants, the huge numbers of people testing positive mean that hospitals in some countries might soon be overwhelmed, while businesses might struggle to carry on because of workers having to quarantine.
“Delta and Omicron are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalisation and deaths,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing.
“I am highly concerned that Omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases.”
French Health Minister Olivier Veran told lawmakers France was seeing a “dizzying” rise in cases, with 208,000 reported in the space of 24 hours – a national and European record.
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