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As many countries are heading into the holiday period, with family gatherings and other social events abound, the Omicron variant is powering a surge in COVID cases in large parts of the world. In the United States, for example, the CDC reported 288,000 new cases on Monday, the second highest total since the start of the pandemic.
In a media briefing on Monday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, rang the alarm bells, urging people to reconsider their holiday plans. “All of us are sick of this pandemic. All of us want to spend time with friends and family,” he said. However, “an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled,” he pointedly added, concluding that “it’s better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”
In the same briefing, the WHO chief also quoted some grim numbers, putting the pandemic’s death toll in perspective. According to WHO data as of December 21, 3.45 million people have died from COVDI-19 so far this year, exceeding last year’s deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and Malaria combined. And that’s not counting the excess deaths caused by disruptions to essential health services.
In order to finally end the pandemic in 2022, Dr. Tedros is calling for the global community to end the unequal distribution of existing vaccines. “If we are to end the pandemic in the coming year, we must end inequity, by ensuring 70% of the population of every country is vaccinated by the middle of next year,” he said.