Geneva: Amid an alarming surge in Covid cases that is progressing towards a third wave globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned that the more transmissible Omicron together with the currently circulating Delta variants might combine to produce "a tsunami of cases.'
"I'm highly concerned that omicron, being more transmissible (and) circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at an online news conference.
This, he said, will put "immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse."
Tedros reiterated his concern over a recent narrative that Omicron has been causing milder or less severe diseases, Xinhua news agency reported.
"But we are undermining the other side at the same time -- it could be dangerous... we shouldn't undermine the bad news just focusing on the good news," he said.
"We don't want people to be complacent, saying this is not severe, this is mild. And we have to be very careful in that narrative," he added.
And after 92 of the WHO's 194 member countries missed a target to vaccinate 40 per cent of their populations by the end of this year, Tedros urged everyone to make a "new year's resolution" to get behind a campaign to vaccinate 70 per cent of countries' populations by the beginning of July.
According to Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, though Omicron looks like being more transmissible, having a shorter incubation period, and causing a mild disease, it's based on the largely young population that the variant has been infecting.
Since the Omicron wave has not been fully established in the broader population, Ryan said he's "a little nervous to make positive predictions until we see how well the vaccine protection is going to work in the older and more vulnerable populations."
"I think it's really important over the coming weeks that we keep suppressing transmission of both variants to the minimum that we can," he added.