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Omicron Fuels Record Weekly COVID-19 Cases, but with Fewer Deaths

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WHO Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that the huge spike is being driven by the Omicron variant, which is rapidly replacing Delta in almost all countries. However, he added, that despite the number of cases, the weekly reported deaths have remained stable since October last year, at an average of 48,000.
An employee works on the Production Line of a COVID-19 Vaccine in India
More than 15 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported around the world last week, by far the most cases reported in a single seven-day period, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.

WHO Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that the huge spike is being driven by the Omicron variant, which is rapidly replacing Delta in almost all countries. However, he added, that despite the number of cases, the weekly reported deaths have remained stable since October last year, at an average of 48,000.  

The number of patients being hospitalized is also increasing in most countries, but it is not at the level seen in previous waves. He told reporters that this is possibly due to the reduced severity of Omicron, and widespread immunity from vaccination or previous infection. 

Dr Tedros says that while Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus, particularly for those who are unvaccinated. “Learning to live with this virus does not mean we can, or should, accept this number of deaths,” Dr Tedros said in a briefing held last evening. 

For him, the world cannot allow this virus a free ride when so many people around the world remain unvaccinated. In Africa, for example, more than 85 per cent of people are yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, yet, he adds, “We cannot end the acute phase of the pandemic unless we close this gap.”  

According to Tedros, the overwhelming majority of people admitted to hospitals around the world are unvaccinated. At the same time, while immunizations remain very effective at preventing severe disease and death, they do not fully prevent transmission. 

“More transmission means more hospitalizations, more deaths, more people off work, including teachers and health workers, and more risk of another variant emerging that is even more transmissible and more deadly than Omicron”, Tedros explained.  So far, 90 countries have still not reached the 40 per cent target, and 36 of those countries have vaccinated less than 10 per cent of their populations.

In December, COVAX shipped more than double the number of doses it distributed in November. In the coming days, the initiative should ship its one billionth vaccine dose. Some of the supply constraints from last year are also starting to ease, Tedros said, but there’s still have a long way to go.

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