The World Health Organization has urged people to nix their holiday plans amid a surge in cases of Omicron, arguing that “an event canceled is better than a life canceled.”
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the new COVID-19 variant presents an increased risk of breakthrough infections and cases of reinfection.
“There can be no doubt that increased social mixing over the holiday period in many countries will lead to increased cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths,” Tedros said at a news conference Monday.
He said the quickest way to return to normal is to make “difficult decisions.
“In some cases, that will mean canceling or delaying events – just as we have had to cancel the reception we planned to have with you today,” he said.
“But an event canceled is better than a life canceled. It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”
Tedros pointed out that just a month ago, Africa was logging its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in 18 months. But last week, the region recorded the fourth-highest number of infections in a single week since the beginning of the pandemic.
In the US, Omicron is spreading at a rate that saw it overtake Delta last week to become the dominant strain.
“There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant,” Tedros said.
He acknowledged that “all of us are sick of this pandemic.
“All of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal,” he said. “The fastest way to do that is for all of us – leaders and individuals – to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others.”