Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that while the Omicron type appears to be less severe than Delta, particularly in individuals who have been vaccinated, this does not mean it should be classified as mild.
The World Health Organization stated on Thursday that a record 9.5 million new COVID-19 cases were recorded around the world during the week of December 27-January 2, with its chief warning that the “tsunami of illnesses” produced by the new Omicron variety was overwhelming health systems around the world.
According to the COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, released Thursday by the World Health Organization, the global number of new cases jumped abruptly by 71% from December 27, 2021, to January 2, 2022, following a progressive increase since October.
The number of new deaths has fallen by 10%. This equates to well under 9.5 million new cases and more than 41,000 new deaths reported in the previous week. According to the update, approximately 289 million illnesses and over 5.4 million deaths had been documented globally as of January 2.
“The pandemic’s highest number of COVID-19 cases were recorded last week. And we know for certain that this is an undercount because reported numbers do not account for the backlog of testing during the holidays, the number of positive self-tests that are not recorded, and overburdened surveillance systems that miss cases all over the world “Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, stated.
In a news conference in Geneva, he noted that while the Omicron version looks to be less severe than Delta, particularly in individuals who have been vaccinated, this does not imply it should be classified as mild.
Omicron, like previous variations, both hospitalizes and kills people. The tsunami of cases is so massive and rapid that it is overwhelming healthcare systems all around the world He stated.
According to the WHO update, all areas reported an increase in the incidence of weekly cases, with the Americas Region reporting the highest increase (100%), followed by South-East Asia (78%), Europe (65%), the Eastern Mediterranean (40%), the Western Pacific (38%), and Africa (7%).
The European Region continued to have the highest weekly case incidence (577.7 new cases per 100,000 people), followed by the Americas Region (319.0 new cases per 100,000 population). Both regions also had the highest weekly mortality rate.
Only the African Region reported a weekly increase in the number of new deaths (22 percent). All other regions recorded a drop in the number of deaths, including the Americas (18%), Western Pacific (10%), South-East Asia (9%), Eastern Mediterranean (7%), and European (6%) Regions.
The United States of America (2,556,690 new cases; a 92% increase), the United Kingdom (1,104,316 new cases; a 51% increase), France (1,093,162 new cases; a 117% increase), Spain (649,832 new cases; a 60% increase), and Italy recorded the highest numbers of new cases (644,508 new cases; 150 per cent increase).
Following a downward trend in the number of weekly cases since the end of July 2021, the South-East Asia Region recorded a 78% increase in case incidence, amounting to nearly 135,000 new cases, according to the update.
The number of new weekly deaths, on the other hand, reduced by 9%, with over 2400 new deaths reported. Half of the countries (5/10) reported weekly increases of more than 10% in the number of new cases.
Following India, Bangladesh (48 percent rise) and the Maldives (48 percent increase) recorded the biggest increases in new cases (31 percent increase). The newest cases were reported in India (102,330 new cases; a 120% rise), Thailand (19,588 new cases; a 6% increase), and Sri Lanka (4286 new cases; an 8 percent increase).
India continues to have the highest number of new deaths (2088 new deaths; an 8% reduction), Thailand (140 new deaths; a 31% decrease), and Sri Lanka (135 new deaths; similar to the previous week).
Ghebreyesus highlighted that while first-generation vaccines do not prevent all infections and transmission, they are extremely successful in lowering hospitalization and death from this virus.
“Along with vaccination, public health social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, distancing, avoiding crowds, and upgrading and investing in ventilation are vital for minimizing transmission,” he explained.
He bemoaned that, given the current rate of vaccine rollout, 109 nations will fall short of adequately vaccinating 70% of their citizens by the beginning of July 2022.
“The crux of the gap is that certain nations are moving toward vaccinating individuals for the fourth time, while others haven’t even had enough regular supply to vaccinate their health personnel and those most at risk,” he explained.