Vienna: Citing the increase in Covid cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths during holiday festivities, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday urged people to postpone gatherings.
During a media briefing, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also remarked that an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled.
As per a report by The Guardian, the WHO chief further took note of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant than the Delta variant and how it was causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the Covid-19 disease.
Tedros pointed out that there is consistent evidence proving that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant.
"And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 could be infected or re-infected," Tedros said.
The WHO chief's statements echoed the finding of a study by Imperial College London, which said last week the risk of reinfection was more than five times higher and it has shown no sign of being milder than Delta.
Meanwhile, Tedros also said China, where the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus was first detected at the end of 2019, must be forthcoming with data and information related to its origin to help the response going forward.
"We need to continue until we know the origins, we need to push harder because we should learn from what happened this time in order to (do) better in the future," he said.
"2022 must be the year we end the pandemic.", he added.
Since it was first reported in South Africa in November, Omicron has been identified in dozens of countries, dashing hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over.
Tedros said the strain appears to have the ability to double its infections every 1.5 to three days. "That is really fast."
Tedros pointed out that regardless of the variant's severity, the sheer number of cases may overwhelm the health system and more people could die.
More than 5.3 million people have died since the start of the pandemic, though the true toll is believed to be several times higher.
Many vulnerable people around the world are still waiting for a first vaccine dose, and the UN health agency has said it is better to prioritise them over providing fully vaccinated health adults with boosters.
Tedros also called the need to end inequity, if we are to end the pandemic in the coming year.