GENEVA: Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new Omicron coronavirus variant has been confirmed in 23 countries and their number is expected to rise.
“At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron and we expect that number to grow. WHO takes this development extremely seriously,” Tedros told media.
“WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country. But it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do. And it’s what this virus will continue to do, as we long as we allow it to continue spreading,” he added.
Tedros said that WHO is learning more all the time about Omicron, but there’s still more to learn about its effect on transmission, the severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics, and vaccines.
“Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritize the studies needed to answer these questions,” he added.
Earlier, the head of the UN health agency criticized “blunt” and “blanket” measures taken by countries in the past few days to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.
In a statement, the WHO chief said it was “deeply concerning” that Botswana and South Africa, where the new variant was first identified, were “being penalized by others for doing the right thing”.
Dozens of countries have imposed travel bans on the southern African nations since the mutation was discovered at the end of last week.