— WHO EMRO (@WHOEMRO) December 22, 2021
Citing the latest modelling data, Ahmed Al-Mandhari said that 22 countries and territories in the region would probably see more than 17 million cases and over 314,000 deaths by the end of the year.
Despite the holiday season, “failure to apply the established public health and social measures could cause alarming surges in the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths”, he said.
Follow COVID guidelines
While the Omicron variant has already been found in 14 countries across the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region, more research is needed before its impact on existing vaccines, diagnosis and treatment, is fully understood, the WHO Regional Director explained.
“COVID-19 will continue to evolve in the months to come; simply because the virus continues to mutate”, he continued. “This is what viruses do: they change as they circulate”.
He underscored that following COVID-19 prevention guidelines is “the only way we can stop the virus from spreading…now more than ever”.
Three good reasons
Dr. Al-Mandhari explained why everyone needs to stick to the guidelines: “First, the winter season has been characterized by spikes of cases and deaths. Second, the holiday season with gatherings of friends and families. Third, the arrival of Omicron, which has the capacity to become a dominant variant in a matter of weeks wherever it emerges.
“I must also remind you that increasing levels of social mixing provide the virus with the highest opportunity to spread”, he added.
Although everyone is tired of hearing about COVID-19 and its restrictions, “we need to face an undeniable fact…the virus is still very much present among us”, he added.
‘Another storm’ rolling in
WHO’s top official in Europe, Hans Kluge, also issued a statement against the backdrop of rising Omicron cases, revealing that last week, Europe and central Asia saw 27,000 additional COVID-19 deaths and 2.6 million new cases.
Although infections stem predominantly from the Delta variant, since its identification 27 days ago, Omicron has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 Member States in WHO’s European Region.
“We can see another storm coming – Omicron is becoming, or already has become, dominant in several countries, including in Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom, where its numbers are doubling every 1.5 to three days, generating previously unseen transmission rates”, he said.
“This variant can evade previous immunity in people – so it can still infect those who have had COVID-19 in the past, those who are unvaccinated, and those who were vaccinated many months ago”.
Furthermore, those who have recovered from COVID-19 are three-to-five times more likely to be reinfected with Omicron, compared to Delta.