WHO warns against 'toxic mix' of low vaccine coverage and testing amid Omicron scare
- Earlier in the day, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said they are expecting more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday said it was expecting the number of countries reporting the new Omicron variant of coronavirus to grow. The world health body also sounded a word of caution against the “toxic mix” of low vaccination coverage and low testing, calling it a “recipe” for breeding of new Covid-19 variants.
“The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said.
"Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage and very low testing -- a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants," he said, while addressing a press conference.
The WHO chief's warning came amid widespread concerns regarding the Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa last month, and later in a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany among others.
Experts say the variant is possibly more dangerous, more than its predecessor Delta variant, which wreaked havoc across the world in the earlier waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier in the day, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said they are expecting more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days.
Whether the variant is more transmissible or evades vaccines are some of the major questions that still need answering. Vaccine developers have said it will take about two weeks to assess whether their shots are effective against it.
In the meantime, many countries across the globe have rushed to impose travel bans or restrictions on passengers arriving from countries that have reported cases of the new Covid-19 variant.
Spain has effectively banned travelers from the UK who aren’t fully vaccinated. On the other hand, in Singapore, those who choose not to get their jabs will now have to pay for their own medical bills if they get Covid-19.
While Germany and Israel are moving closer to making Covid-19 vaccine shots compulsory; Greece is introducing fines and Spain is banning some unvaccinated travelers.
The last time a US president visited Seoul in 2019, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to restart nuclear talks during an impromptu meeting at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone. As Joe Biden prepares to land in Seoul on Friday, the White House hasn't indicated he'll be heading to the DMZ. The White House has largely avoided stern reactions to Kim Jong Un latest tests, including an ICBM launch on March 24.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called upon the world's attention as he yet again accused Russia of targeting civilians with the war set to complete three months. The Kremlin launched its offensive on February 24 and said it was aimed at “de-Nazifying” the neighbour country - claims that have been repeatedly dismissed by Kyiv. A UN Security Council meeting yet again saw the US and Russia sparring amid intensifying food crises across the world.
North Korea said on Friday it was achieving "good results" in the fight against the country's first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak, as the number of people with fever symptoms surpassed 2 million. The isolated nation reported 263,370 more people with fever symptoms, and two more deaths, taking the total fever caseload to 2.24 million as of Thursday evening, including 65 deaths, according to state media KCNA.
Sri Lanka fell into default for the first time in its history as the government struggles to halt an economic meltdown that prompted mass protests and a political crisis. Fitch Ratings also confirmed that finding, downgrading Sri Lanka to “restricted default” later in the day. The coupon payments, originally due April 18, were worth $78 million combined on notes maturing 2023 and 2028, with a 30-day grace period that expired on Wednesday.
Russia's former president and now senior security official, Dmitry Medvedev, said Thursday the West should not expect Russia to continue food supplies if it slaps Moscow with devastating sanctions over Ukraine. "Otherwise, there's no logic: on the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies. Things don't work like that, we're not idiots," said Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council.