WHO said that omicron cases are 'off the charts' as global infections set new records
January 14, 2022: -A record 15 million new Covid-19 infections were reported across the globe in a single week as omicron rapidly replaces delta as the dominant variant around the world, and “we know this is an underestimate,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday.
“The sheer volume of cases is putting a burden on health-care systems,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s the technical lead on Covid-19. “Even though omicron is less severe than delta, it still puts people in the hospital. It is still putting people into ICU and needing advanced clinical care. It is still killing people.”
The U.S. saw the most significant jump in cases with 4.6 million new infections reported for the week through Sunday, a 73% increase over the prior week, compared to a 55% global increase in cases over the same period, according to the WHO’s weekly epidemiology report published Tuesday.
Tedros noted that hospitalizations are not relatively as high as seen in previous surges, possibly due to decreased severity of omicron compared to delta and widespread immunity from vaccines and prior infection. But, he added, the death rate is still unsustainably high, with an average of about 48,000 deaths per week, which hasn’t fluctuated much since October, Tedros said.
“We’re seeing omicron out-compete delta in many populations,” Van Kerkhove said. While delta cases similarly peaked in a few months, it didn’t take over the globe as quickly, nor were the chances as high as omicron. “This is off the charts,” she said.
The WHO said more than 357,000 cases were sequenced in the last 30 days; nearly 59% were omicron in the epidemiological report. The United Nations’ health organization cautioned that the data might not fully show how far omicron has spread due to reporting delays and limited sequencing in some countries.
According to the report, omicron has a shorter doubling time than other variants, meaning the number of days it takes for cases to double. It can more readily evade prior immunity, allowing it an advantage over different variants.
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