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Omicron continues to increase dominance globally: WHO

The risk level related to the Omicron variant remains very high, the World Health Organization (WHO) said late Tuesday, with the numbers of new Covid-19 cases hitting another record high last week.

“Over 21 million new cases were reported, representing the highest number of weekly cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic,” the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological coronavirus update.

Latest Omicron developments

Infections and economic ‘obstacle course’

The UN health agency said the number of new infections increased by 5% in the week to Sunday – compared to the 20% rise registered the week before.

“A slower increase in case incidence was observed at the global level,” the WHO said. Nearly 50,000 new deaths were also reported, it added – a similar figure to the week before.

Omicron is also creating an obstacle course for the global economy, which will slow growth this year, notably in the world’s two largest economies the US and China.

Omicron risk ‘remains very high’

The report said Omicron continued to increase its dominance globally over the other variants of concern.

“The current global epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 is characterised by the dominance of the Omicron variant on a global scale, continued decline in the prevalence of the Delta variant, and very low-level circulation of Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants,” the WHO said.

“Countries that experienced a rapid rise in Omicron cases in November and December 2021 have been or are beginning to see declines in cases.

However, “based on the currently available evidence, the overall risk related to the Omicron variant remains very high”.

The WHO said that of samples collected in the last 30 days that have been sequenced and uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative, Omicron accounted for 89.1%.

Delta – previously the world’s dominant variant – now makes up 10.7%.

Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech say they have begun enrollment for a clinical trial to test the safety and immune response of their Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine in adults aged up to 55.

As of Tuesday, 25 January, Covid-19 killed at least 5,602,767 people worldwide, since the outbreak first emerged in China back in December 2019.

As per the official AFP tally, the US recorded the most Covid-19-related deaths with 868,512, followed by Brazil with 623,356, India with 490,462 and Russia with 327,448.

That said, taking into account excess mortality linked to Covid-19, the WHO estimates the overall death toll could be two to three times higher.

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