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‘Dangerous to assume’ we’re in COVID-19 pandemic endgame, WHO head warns

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: WHO head says ‘dangerous’ to assume pandemic is nearing end'
COVID-19: WHO head says ‘dangerous’ to assume pandemic is nearing end
WATCH: WHO head says 'dangerous' to assume pandemic is nearing end – Jan 24, 2022

The head of the World Health Organization is warning that conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge and says it’s dangerous to assume Omicron is the last one or that “we are in the endgame,” while saying the acute phase of the pandemic could still end this year – if some key targets are met.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, laid out Monday an array of achievements and concerns in global health over issues like reducing tobacco use, fighting resistance to anti-microbial treatments, and risks of climate change on human health. But he said “ending the acute phase of the pandemic must remain our collective priority.”

Read more: Omicron peaking in some countries, but no one is ‘out of the woods yet’: WHO

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“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end. But it’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Tedros told the start of a WHO executive board meeting this week. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”

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But he insisted that “we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year,” by reaching goals like WHO’s target to vaccinate 70 percent of the population of each country by the middle of this year, with a focus on people who are at the highest risk of COVID-19, and improving testing and sequencing rates to track the virus and its emerging variants more closely.

Click to play video: 'WHO says Omicron COVID-19 variant less severe than Delta but still poses danger for unvaccinated'
WHO says Omicron COVID-19 variant less severe than Delta but still poses danger for unvaccinated

“It’s true that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases” to help prepare for future pandemics, he said. “But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50,000 deaths a week from a preventable and treatable disease.”

In stark terms, Tedros also appealed for strengthening WHO and increasing funding for it to help stave off health crises.

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“Let me put it plainly: If the current funding model continues, WHOis being set up to fail. The paradigm shift in world health that is needed now must be matched by a paradigm shift in funding the world’s health organization.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: WHO ‘particularly concerned’ about countries with low vaccination rates'
COVID-19: WHO ‘particularly concerned’ about countries with low vaccination rates

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