Omicron variant should not be dismissed as mild: WHOtext_fields
Geneva: The World Health Organization on Thursday said that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is killing people across the globe and should not be dismissed as mild.
Speaking at a press conference, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that Omicron, detected first in South Africa in November last year, has infected record numbers of people which means hospitals are being overwhelmed.
He also noted that currently the super mutated variant is rapidly out-competing the previously-dominant Delta variant in many countries.
"While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorised as mild," Tedros told a press conference.
"Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalising people and it is killing people," he explained.
"In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world."
Just under 9.5 million new Covid-19 cases were reported to the WHO last week -- a record, up 71 percent on the week before.
But even this was an underestimate, Tedros said, as it did not reflect the backlog of testing around the Christmas-New Year holidays, positive self-tests not registered, and overburdened surveillance systems missing cases.
Meanwhile, the WHO's Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said it was "very unlikely" that Omicron would be the last variant of concern before the pandemic is over.
In facing the more transmissible Omicron variant, Van Kerkhove urged people to step up the measures they were already taking to protect themselves against the virus.
"Do everything that we have been advising better, more comprehensively, more purposefully," she said.
"We need people to hang in there and really fight."