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World

Updated on: Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 11:10 PM IST

Omicron cases in 77 countries now: WHO says 'it is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant'

Photo: Xinhua

Photo: Xinhua

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Updating on the Omicron variant strain globally, World Health Organisation's Director General, Tedros A Ghebreyesus said that 77 countries have now reported cases of the new strain.

The WHO chief said that the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet. "Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant," he added.

Dr Tedros said vaccination against COVID alone will not contain the pandemic and the usage of masks, maintaining social distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene should be prioritised.

The WHO director general raised concerns over the looming threat posed by the Omicron variant and the countries rushing to inoculate their population with the booster dose of COVID vaccines.

Dr Tedros categorically stated that “WHO is not against booster dose, but against inequity".

Owing to the emergence of Omicron variant in more than 70 countries, the global health body earlier in the day urged member countries in its South-East Asia Region to increase investments to strengthen primary health care as the foundation for universal health coverage and health security, noting that PHC plays a crucial role in enabling better preparedness and response to pandemics.

We have seen that countries with strong primary health care (PHC) systems were able to respond better and faster to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also maintaining essential services with minimal disruption, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, at a high-level meeting, according to a statement.

"One of the key lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the best defense against disease outbreak and other health emergencies is resilient primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage. Many of the countries that have responded most effectively to COVID-19 are those that had invested adequately in PHC," the statement quoted WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying at the high-level meeting.

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Published on: Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 11:10 PM IST
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