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WHO warns of a ‘tsunami’ of Delta and Omicron cases

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A sign reminds customers that masks are required in their store in New York.

SWITZERLAND, US,: The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday that the ongoing circulation of the delta variant and the emergence and rapid spread of omicron could create a “tsunami” of infections that could overwhelm health care systems, even as top American health officials emphasized that early data showed omicron infections producing milder illness.

The global average of new cases hit a new high of more than 930,000 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database. The previous high was more than 827,000, reached in late April.

“Delta and omicron are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalization and deaths,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said at a news conference in Geneva. “I am highly concerned that omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases.”

But along with the warnings, U.S. officials and the leading scientists at the U.N. agency said that the early data from places where omicron was spreading offered some cautiously positive signs.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said at a White House news conference that even as cases had increased by around 60% over the past week, to around 240,000 cases recorded each day, hospital admissions and deaths were hinting at a milder wave of the virus.

“While our cases have substantially increased from last week, hospitalizations and deaths remain comparatively low right now,” she said, pointing to a seven-day average of hospitalizations of 9,000 per day, an increase of about 14% from last week. The seven-day average of daily deaths stood at roughly 1,100 per day, she added, a decrease of about 7%.

Citing a series of international studies showing milder omicron outcomes, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said at the same news conference that “the pattern and disparity between cases and hospitalizations strongly suggest that there will be a lower hospitalization-to-case ratio when the situation becomes more clear.”

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientific Officer for the WHO, said that early real-world data indicated that the link between infection numbers and hospitalizations had been “disrupted.”

She cautioned that the evidence on omicron is just emerging. “We can still not predict what this virus will do,” she said.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program, said that omicron had yet to work its way into all parts of society — including the most vulnerable populations and the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, More than a million COVID-19 cases were recorded globally for the third consecutive day on Wednesday as countries are scrambling to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant—the biggest reason for the rise in daily infections.

On Wednesday, more than 1.63 million people across the world were detected as Covid-19 positive. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already warned that Omicron along with the Delta variant will push health systems on the brink of collapse.

According to Agencies, from December 22 and December 28, almost 900,000 cases of COVID-19 were being recorded on an average daily.

Meanwhile, the UNICEF said on Wednesday that it has delivered over 100 million COVID-19 vaccines to Bangladesh since June this year.

The 100 million vaccines delivered so far also include over 50 million doses that UNICEF has delivered to Bangladesh under the COVAX facility, which is the WHO-led initiative for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world.

The UN agency said the fresh delivery of vaccines is a welcome boost for Bangladesh’s efforts to achieve its target of vaccinating 80 per cent of the total population by June 2022.


Friday, December 31, 2021 – 01:00

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