The WHO official urged an expansion of a worldwide vaccination campaign and implementing strict measures to put an end to the pandemic soon.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the world to make “hard decisions” in order to “end the pandemic” next year.
“2022 must be the year we end the pandemic,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, Doha News states.
Ghebreyesus urged for the postponement of end-of-year festivities amid an alarming increase of COVID-19 infections and the spread of the new Omicron variant.
“An event canceled is better than a life canceled,” he said, noting that “all of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal”.
However, he stressed that getting back to normalcy requires protection from the highly contagious virus that is rapidly spreading in different countries worldwide.
Since it was first identified by doctors in South Africa last month, Omicron has been detected in over 70 countries, including Qatar. Health officials have since warned it is more contagious than the Delta variant.
With increasing concerns over the dominant variant, the WHO official advised people to cancel events “now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.
“We have to focus now on ending this pandemic,” he stressed.
Controlling the pandemic requires utilizing all available tools, ranging from anti-COVID-19 vaccines, to mask-wearing and social distancing, he added, emphasising the need to make vaccines accessible to everyone everywhere.
“If we are to end the pandemic in the coming year, we must end inequity.”
“There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant,” the WHO chief said.
Negligence breeds cases
In Qatar, health authorities have voiced similar concerns and called for action on a national level as four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant cases were confirmed.
Experts said that increasing negligence to Covid-19 measures has led to an alarming rise in cases nationwide, urging the public to remain vigilant.
The detection of Omicron prompted the health ministry to roll out new ‘Travel and Return’ policies in a bid to curb the spread of the concerning variant.
Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said the move comes as world health officials warn of Omicron’s large number of mutations, which makes it highly contagious.
Authorities have now urged the public to follow all preventive measures carefully while further data is anticipated on the severity of the variant.
Health experts have been encouraging people to register for a booster shot if eligible to build up a level of protection against the variant.
In Qatar, more than 200,000 people have already received their booster shot.
“A booster dose is available to anyone who had their second dose more than six months ago. A booster dose will significantly increase an individual’s immunity and provide longer-term protection against all circulating variants,” the ministry noted.
While no restrictions have been imposed on those who haven’t taken their third dose yet, authorities said “people who are traveling during the holidays should ensure they get their booster dose before they travel.”
These warnings come amid a recent increase in overall COVID-19 cases in Qatar.
According to the latest figures, there are a total of 2,315 active cases in Qatar, where 614 deaths have been registered since the start of the pandemic.
WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 22 December 2021 (source – WHO)
2021 was a year in which we lost 3.5 million people to COVID-19 – more deaths than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined in 2020.
WHO issued updated guidance for health workers, recommending the use of either a respirator or a medical mask.
Only half of WHO’s Member States have been able to reach the target of vaccinating 40% of their populations by the end of the year.
Today, COVAX shipped its 800 millionth vaccine dose. Half of those doses have been shipped in the past three months.
SAGE expressed concern that blanket booster programs will exacerbate vaccine inequity.
WHO is working to identify the next generation of vaccines through the Solidarity Trial Vaccines. The trial includes two vaccines, three others will be included shortly.
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