The World Health Organization chief says the combination of Delta and Omicron variants is driving a dangerous tsunami of Covid-19 cases that could put immense pressure on healthcare systems. The warning comes as global Covid infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period with many nations posting all-time highs.
Studies have suggested Omicron is less deadly than some previous Covid variants but the sheer number of people contracting the new variant has led to fears that hospitals could be overwhelmed in many countries.
The huge surge in cases is also having a major impact on economies around the world with many businesses struggling to carry on without workers who have been ordered to quarantine. Political leaders in a number of nations are either considering or have taken action to shorten the period required for isolation after a positive Covid test or exposure.
The French Health Minister said his nation was seeing a "dizzying" rise in Covid cases, with 208,000 new cases reported in the space of 24 hours - a national and European record. The United States, Britain, Italy, Spain, Australia, and Argentina are among the many nations that have all registered record numbers of new cases this week.
The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing that he was highly concerned that the twin threats of the Omicron and Delta variants were leading to a tsunami of Covid cases. He warned that this surge in cases will continue to put immense pressure on hospitals on the brink of collapse.
The WHO chief also warned that the large-scale booster vaccine campaigns in richer countries risked prolonging the pandemic as they diverted supplies away from poorer, less vaccinated countries. This, he said, gives the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate. Tedros urged everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to get behind the campaign to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by the middle of 2022.
Pope Francis has on a number of occasions reiterated the need for equal access to vaccines for all, especially the world’s most vulnerable and needy people. As he put it, only in solidarity can we get out of this pandemic.