Science delivered but politics triumphed amid pandemic, WHO chief says

The head of the World Health Organization is worried about the omicron and delta variants of COVID-19 producing a "tsunami" of cases between them but said he is still hopeful that the world will put the worst of the pandemic behind it in 2022. 

"Right now, delta and omicron are twin threats that are driving up cases to record numbers, which again is leading to spikes in hospitalizations and deaths," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "I'm highly concerned that omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases."

Tedros also accused wealthier nations of exacerbating the pandemic and called on leaders to improve global supplies.

"While science delivered, politics too often triumphed over solidarity. While there were 1.8 million recorded deaths in 2020, there were 3.5 million in 2021. And we know the actual number is much higher. This is not to mention to the millions of people dealing with the long-term consequences from the virus," Tedros said. "Populism, narrow nationalism and hoarding of health tools, including masks, therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines by a small number of countries, undermined equity and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of new variants."

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And after 92 of the WHO's 194 member countries missed a target to vaccinate 40% of their populations by the end of this year, Tedros urged everyone to make a "new year's resolution" to get behind a campaign to vaccinate 70% of countries' populations by the beginning of July.

"I ask everyone to make a New Year's resolution to get behind the campaign to vaccinate 70% by the middle of 2022," Tedros said. "We have 185 days to the finish line of achieving 70% by the start of July 2022. And the clock starts now."

WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report that the "overall risk" related to omicron "remains very high." It cited "consistent evidence" that it has a growth advantage over the delta variant.

WHO's emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, underlined that note of caution. He said that in the coming weeks, nations musht "suppress transmission of both variants to the minimum that we can."

With The Associated Press.

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