More than 3.3 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 this year – more deaths than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined in 2020, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the novel coronavirus continues to claim around 50,000 lives worldwide every week, but he told journalists that “2022 should be the year we end the pandemic” with the tools the world has at its disposal.
Tedros was speaking at the first hybrid press conference held by the WHO for journalists from the United Nations in Geneva and the first such meeting since July 2020 that Anadolu Agency facilitated.
“The last time we hosted you, in July last year, none of us could have imagined that almost 18 months later, we would still be in the grip of the pandemic,” said the WHO chief of a meeting for journalists with the ACANU association of UN correspondents.
– Omicron spreading fast
Tedros also spoke about the latest variant of COVID-19 that has hit the world, saying “there is now consistent evidence that omicron is spreading significantly faster than the delta variant.”
There are also the unreported deaths and the millions of excess deaths caused by disruptions to essential health services, he said.
Just one month ago, he explained that Africa was reporting its lowest number of cases in 18 months.
“Last week, it reported the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far. Africa is now facing a steep wave of infections, driven largely by the omicron variant,” said Tedros.
The WHO chief also noted that people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 are more likely to become infected or reinfected from the omicron variant.
“All of us are sick of this pandemic. All of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal,” he said.
Tedros cautioned that many countries traditionally plan gatherings that can draw crowds over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and suggested they should reconsider events.
“Countries should be more careful and restrict mass crowds during this festival period. Postponing such organizations during this period will save more lives,” he added.