Nearly two years after China officially announced the first coronavirus infection, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is cautiously optimistic about 2022. “This could be the year the acute pandemic is over,” he said—a press conference in Geneva.
The most severe effects of the pandemic could fade by next year. “We can end the phase of hospitalizations and deaths,” said WHO expert Mike Ryan. The WHO is also counting more on the use of drugs in the treatment of Covid-19 next year.
The current wave of the omikron variant is troubling, he said. Together with the delta variant, a “contamination sunami” could develop, according to Tedros. In the meantime, the omicron variant is certainly spreading much faster than the delta variant. It is now the dominant variety in the United States and Great Britain. However, a decrease in the number of cases has recently been observed in South Africa.
However, preliminary data from Britain, South Africa and Denmark show that people are less likely to end up in hospital compared to the delta variant, the WHO said in its weekly report. However, more studies are needed to understand those observations fully. According to the WHO, drugs that have previously proven their worth also seem to help with this variant.
Tedros once again urged all countries not to be selfish but to help distribute the vaccine fairly. “It’s time to leave short-sighted nationalism behind and protect populations and economies through the equitable worldwide distribution of the vaccine.” About half of the WHO’s 194 member states had less than 40 percent of the population vaccinated before Christmas.
In about 40 countries, less than ten percent was vaccinated. “That is a moral shame. I call on the leaders of rich countries to learn lessons from alpha, beta, gamma delta and omikron and work towards the 70 percent target. The vaccine disparity needs to be addressed.”
The WHO chief suggested a new year’s resolution: “I want governments, companies and citizens to join in a campaign to get 70 percent of the population in every country vaccinated by the beginning of July next year.”
Two years after the pandemic outbreak, the WHO also recalled the 278 million corona infections and the nearly 5.4 million deaths worldwide. “The actual number of victims is much higher,” Tedros said. “Not to mention the many millions of people who are struggling with the consequences of lung covid. Populism, short-sighted nationalism and the hoarding of medical equipment have paved the way for new variants,” the WHO said.