WHO: COVID-19 pandemic ‘nowhere near over’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — The World Health Organization has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is “nowhere near over” amid the threat of the more infectious Omicron variant and the possible emergence of other variants.

In a recent media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said infections in some countries may have already peaked, but no country is out of the woods yet as many remain unvaccinated which puts them at higher risk.

“Vaccines may be less effective at preventing infection and transmission of Omicron than they were for previous variants, but they still are exceptionally good at preventing serious disease and death,” Tedros said, adding that this is also key in preventing hospitals from getting overwhelmed.

Ghebreyesus also noted that “Omicron may be less severe…but the narrative that it is mild disease is misleading, hurts the overall response and costs more lives.”

“Make no mistake, Omicron is causing hospitalizations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities,” he added.

In the Philippines, the number of daily COVID-19 cases has reached over 20,000 for days now, even breaching the 39,000-mark on Jan. 15.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there is a community transmission of the Omicron variant is in Metro Manila, where most of the infections are being reported.

In a recent Cabinet meeting, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noted that 90% of samples were positive for the Omicron variant based on the latest genome sequencing. Despite this, the spread of COVID-19 in the country is slowing down as infections start to plateau, he added.