It is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant, or the pandemic is going to end, when global conditions are seen as ideal for more Covid variants to emerge, said the World Health Organization (WHO) chief on Monday.
Addressing the 150th session of WHO’s executive board, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Omicron, which was first identified in late November, has spread to 171 countries.
More than 80 million cases of the highly contagious variant have been reported to WHO, more than the Covid cases reported in the whole of 2020, he said.
However, he noted that the “explosion in cases” has so far “not been matched by a surge in deaths”.
Ghebreyesus said that the pandemic is not going to end, rather new variants will emerge.
“It’s true that we will be living with Covid for the foreseeable future,” said the WHO chief.
“It is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame.
“On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge,” Ghebreyesus said, adding that the world cannot “gamble on a virus whose evolution we cannot control or predict.”
He noted that the world must learn to live with it, which doesn’t “mean that we give this virus a free ride”.
“We will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases, which will provide a platform for preparedness for future pandemics.”
He said to change the course of the pandemic, it is essential to achieve the target to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of every country.
About 85 per cent of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, he lamented.
He also recommended strong clinical management, equitable access to diagnostics, oxygen and antivirals at the point of care; boosting of testing and sequencing rates globally to track the virus closely, and monitor the emergence of new variants.