The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against describing the Omicron variant as mild, saying it is killing people across the world.
According to recent research, Omicron is less likely to cause serious illness than previous Covid variants.
However, the unprecedented number of people infected has put health-care systems under severe strain, according to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
On Monday, the United States recorded over one million Covid cases in 24 hours.
According to the WHO, the UN’s health agency, the number of global cases has increased by 71% in the last week, and by 100% in the Americas. According to the report, 90 percent of severe cases worldwide were unvaccinated.
“While Omicron appears to be less severe than Delta, particularly in those who have been vaccinated, this does not mean it should be classified as mild,” Dr Tedros said at a press conference on Thursday.
“Omicron, like previous variants, is hospitalising and killing people.”
“In fact, the tsunami of cases is so large and fast that it is overwhelming health-care systems all over the world.”
Omicron is highly contagious and can infect people who have had all of their vaccinations. Vaccines, on the other hand, remain critical because they help protect against serious diseases that could land you in the hospital.
On Thursday, the UK reported 179,756 cases and 231 Covid-related deaths. A number of hospitals have declared “critical” incidents due to staff absence and rising pressures due to Covid.
Elsewhere, hospital numbers are also rising. France’s health minister Olivier Veran warned this week that January would be tough for hospitals.
He added that Omicron patients were taking up “conventional” beds in hospitals while Delta was putting a strain on ICU departments. France on Thursday reported 261,000 cases.
Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, said the country’s healthcare system is currently under great pressure. The country recorded more than 9,000 cases on Thursday, according to local media.
In his latest comments, Dr Tedros repeated his calls for greater vaccine distribution to help poorer countries jab their populations.
According to him, based on current vaccine rollout, 109 countries will fall short of the WHO’s target of 70 percent of the world being fully vaccinated by July.
Last year, the WHO director-general stated that if Western countries do not stockpile vaccines for use in booster programmes, the world will have enough doses of the vaccine in 2022 to vaccinate the entire global adult population.