The World Health Organization (WHO) chief warned Tuesday that it is too early for countries to either declare victory over Covid-19 or give up attempts to halt transmission.
“It is premature for any country to either surrender or to declare victory,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
“This virus is dangerous, and it continues to evolve before our very eyes.”
His comment came as Denmark on Tuesday became the first EU country to lift all of its domestic Covid curbs despite record numbers of cases of the milder Omicron variant, with a number of other countries eying similar moves.
“We’re concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines and because of Omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible, and no longer necessary,” Tedros said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, stressing that “more Covid-19 transmission means more deaths.”
The UN health agency chief pointed out that since Omicron was first spotted in southern Africa 10 weeks ago, nearly 90 million cases have been reported to WHO – more than in all of 2020.
And while the new Covid variant is known to be milder, he stressed that “we are now starting to see a very worrying increase in deaths in most regions of the world.”
It is vital, he said, to keep striving to halt transmission of the virus.
“We are not calling for any country to return to so-called lockdown,” Tedros said, adding though that “we are calling on all countries to protect their people using every tool in the toolkit, not vaccines alone.”
The WHO head stressed the need to continue tracking emerging variants, including the Omicron sub-lineage BA.2.
“This virus will continue to evolve, which is why we call on countries to continue testing, surveillance and sequencing,” he said.
“We can’t fight this virus if we don’t know what it’s doing.”