WHO: Record weekly jump in COVID-19 cases as omicron surges

Associated Press

Geneva – The World Health Organization said Thursday a record 9.5 million cases of COVID-19 were tallied around the world over the last week, noting a 71% surge in the weekly count of infections amounting to a “tsunami” as the new omicron variant sweeps worldwide.

“Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He said the WHO was certain that was an underestimate because of a backlog in testing around the year-end holidays.

In this Monday, March 9, 2020 file photo, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference on updates regarding COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The U.N. health agency, in its weekly report on the pandemic, said the weekly count amounted to 9,520,488 new cases and over 41 000 new deaths were reported during the last week.

While omicron appears to be less severe than the delta variant, especially among people who have been vaccinated, the WHO chief said: “It does not mean it should be categorized as mild. Just like previous variants, omicron is hospitalizing people, and it’s killing people.”

“In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick that it is overwhelming health systems around the world,” the WHO chief told a regular news briefing.

The WHO said the rises in case counts over the last week varied, doubling in the Americas region, but rising only 7% in Africa.

The WHO emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said speculation that omicron might be the last variant of the outbreak was “wishful thinking” and cautioned: “There still is a lot of energy in this virus.”

Added Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19: “I think it’s very unlikely that omicron will be the last variant that you will hear us discussing.”