WHO warns Omicron will not be last COVID-19 variant

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said the pandemic will not end as the Omicron variant subsides in some countries, warning the high levels of infection around the world will likely lead to new variants as the virus mutates. New infections have increased by 20% globally over the past week with nearly 19 million total reported cases.

We’re hearing a lot of people suggest that omicron is the last variant, that it’s over after this. And that is not the case because this virus is circulating at a very intense level around the world,

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said during a coronavirus update in Geneva, CNBC reported.

New infections have increased by 20% globally over the past week with nearly 19 million total reported cases, according to the WHO. But Van Kerkhove noted that new infections that go unreported would make the real number much higher.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official, warned high levels of transmission give the virus more opportunity to replicate and mutate, raising the risk that a new variant will emerge.

“We don’t fully understand the consequences of letting this thing run,” Aylward said. “Most of what we’ve seen so far in areas of uncontrolled transmission has been we paid a price for the variants that emerge and new uncertainties we have to manage as we go forward.”

Van Kerkhove said now is not the time to relax public health measures, such as curtailing mask wearing and physical distancing. She called on governments to strengthen those measures to bring the virus under better control and head off future waves of infection as new variants emerge.

If we don’t do this now, we will move on to the next crisis,

Van Kerkhove said. “And we need to end the crisis that we are currently in and we can do that at the present time. So don’t abandon the science. Don’t abandon the strategies that are working, that are keeping us and our loved ones safe,” she said.

Van Kerkhove called on governments to invest more in surveillance systems to track the virus as it mutates.

This won’t be the last variant of concern,

she stressed.

Cover photo: Getty Images


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