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WHO Says Omicron Cases ‘Off The Charts’ As Global Infections Set New Records


Maria Van Kerkhove, Head of the Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Unit at the World Health Organization, speaks at a press conference following a meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Emergency Committee in Geneva January 22, 2020.

Pierre Albouy | AFP | Getty Images

A record 15 million new Covid-19 infections have been reported across the world in a single week as omicron rapidly replaces delta as the dominant variant across the world, and “we know it’s a sub -estimate “, Dr. Tedros, Director General of the World Health Organization. Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“The considerable volume of cases weighs on health systems,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical officer on Covid-19. “Even though omicron is less severe than delta, it still sends people to the hospital. It still sends people to intensive care and needs advanced clinical care. It still kills people.”

The United States saw the largest increase in the number of cases with 4.6 million new infections reported for the week to Sunday, a 73% increase from the previous week, compared to a global increase of 55 % of cases during same period, according to WHO weekly epidemiology. report released Tuesday.

Tedros noted that hospitalizations are not as high as seen in previous outbreaks, possibly due to the decrease in severity of omicron compared to delta and widespread immunity from vaccines and past infections. . But, he added, the death rate is still too high, averaging around 48,000 deaths per week, which hasn’t fluctuated much since October, Tedros said.

“We are seeing omicron outperforming the delta in many populations,” Van Kerkhove said. While the delta cases also peaked in a matter of months, they haven’t taken over the world as quickly, and the cases haven’t been as high as the omicron. “It’s off the charts,” she said.

Among more than 357,000 cases sequenced in the past 30 days, nearly 59% were omicron, the WHO said in the epidemiological report. WHO, the United Nations health organization, has warned that data may not fully show how far omicron has spread due to reporting delays and sequencing limitations in some countries.

According to the report, the omicron has a shorter doubling time than the other variants, which means the number of days it takes for cases to double, and it can more easily evade prior immunity, which means gives it an advantage over other variants.

While the omicron appeared to tear apart populations where it was detected early and then descend to lower levels, Van Kerkhove said the delta had a similar trajectory at its height, but never peaked at levels such as the omicron.

But, she stressed, the leadership of the omicron can still be influenced by the actions of the world, including vaccination and taking action to minimize the spread.

“There is no inevitability about this virus and its circulation,” she said. “We have control, a certain measure of control, in terms of limiting its spread with tools to which we have access: masks, distancing, ventilation, avoiding crowds. “

Van Kerkhove said the WHO expects the virus to continue to evolve to become fitter and more or less severe, that there will continue to be disease outbreaks among the unvaccinated and that as different populations mix, outbreaks of other viruses will sometimes occur at the same time as those of the Covid.

“The virus is on the way to becoming endemic,” Van Kerkhove said. “But we’

are not there yet. “

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