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Omicron spreading at unprecedented rate_ WHO

The new coronavirus variant Omicron is spreading across the globe at an unprecedented rate, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned

Cases of the heavily mutated variant have been confirmed in 77 countries.

But at a press conference, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was probably in many others that had yet to detect it.

Dr Tedros said he was concerned that not enough was being done to tackle the variant.

“Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa in November, and the country has since seen a surge in infections. President Cyril Ramaphosa has tested positive for Covid-19, and is currently isolating with mild symptoms.

A number of countries have introduced travel bans affecting South Africa and its neighbours following the emergence of Omicron, but this has failed to stop it from spreading around the world.

Read More: UK Removes Nigeria, Others From Red List

In other developments

  • More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus – the highest recorded national death toll from the global pandemic
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson won backing for Covid passes in England, despite the biggest revolt by members of his party since he became PM
  • The UK government also announced on Tuesday that all 11 countries on its travel red list would be taken off, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying the Omicron variant had spread so widely the rules no longer had much purpose.
  • Italy has extended a state of emergency until 31 March 2022, citing concerns over Omicron. The measures, which were due to expire at the end of December, give the government more power to limit travel and public gatherings
  • The Netherlands says it will close primary schools a week before the Christmas holidays are due to start, in a pre-emptive bid to tackle infections
  • Norway has announced a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, among other measures

In the press conference on Tuesday, Dr Tedros reiterated concerns about vaccine inequity, as some countries accelerate rollouts of a booster shot in response to Omicron.

Recent studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine showed it produced far fewer neutralising antibodies against Omicron than against the original strain, but that this deficit could be reversed by a third, booster, jab.

Dr Tedros said boosters “could play an important role” in curbing the spread of Covid-19, but that it was “a question of prioritisation”.

“The order matters. Giving boosters to groups at low risk of severe disease or death simply endangers the lives of those at high risk who are still waiting for their primary doses because of supply constraints,” he said.

Supplies to the global vaccine-sharing programme Covax have increased in recent months. But world health officials fear a repeat of a shortfall of tens of millions of doses which occurred in the middle of this year, partly as a result of India suspending exports during a surge in cases there.

In poorer countries, some vulnerable people are yet to receive a single dose.

CORONAVIRUSGlobal vaccine rollout

Percent of people fully vaccinated

                                  The World                                     Africa                                     Asia                                     Europe                                     Middle East                                     Latin America & Caribbean                                     North America                                     Oceania                                 

LocationDoses per 100 peopleTotal doses
World107.68,471,850,118
China180.62,622,808,050
India95.51,331,399,226
US144.0484,190,896
Brazil149.6320,112,450
Indonesia90.5249,974,816
Japan157.2198,171,413
Mexico105.3137,169,511
Russia93.1135,853,932
Germany160.4134,541,383
Pakistan59.5133,901,703
Vietnam134.7132,266,442
Bangladesh77.4128,770,270
Turkey143.1121,655,651
UK177.6121,121,408
France164.6111,198,494
Iran126.5107,531,771
Italy169.0102,029,307
Thailand138.997,177,327
Philippines84.994,236,990
South Korea174.489,497,928
Spain166.577,827,910
Argentina156.871,507,682
Canada165.863,133,170
Colombia117.860,385,993
Malaysia165.554,238,218
Morocco131.749,191,138
Saudi Arabia136.148,088,092
Peru133.144,385,015
Poland116.944,200,031
Egypt42.243,976,245
Chile216.241,539,321
Australia155.840,177,641
Uzbekistan106.336,064,004
Taiwan139.933,374,778
Sri Lanka144.331,011,543
Cambodia173.329,365,889
Cuba255.928,960,590
Myanmar52.428,707,770
South Africa45.027,043,034
Ukraine61.226,589,094
Venezuela91.726,314,390
Ecuador141.525,309,620
Netherlands144.424,791,526
United Arab Emirates221.722,146,899
Belgium169.019,655,382
Nepal64.619,157,444
Portugal180.418,339,677
Kazakhstan90.217,138,045
Sweden163.216,584,289
Israel175.716,325,016
Greece150.015,551,964
Romania80.415,380,867
Austria167.915,185,442
Hungary152.114,655,778
Czech Republic134.214,388,658
Dominican Republic127.313,943,820
Iraq31.412,912,613
Switzerland143.212,484,660
Algeria27.612,293,060
Nigeria5.311,193,780
Mozambique34.511,099,580
Tunisia91.610,937,504
Azerbaijan106.610,894,072
Guatemala57.910,573,206
Ethiopia8.810,364,843
Angola30.410,319,552
Rwanda77.310,268,499
Denmark175.710,214,910
Singapore174.09,489,264
El Salvador143.79,364,231
Norway165.99,069,860
Honduras89.79,030,824
Bolivia75.58,937,595
Finland160.78,913,569
Ireland171.78,557,367
Kenya14.98,178,645
Jordan78.48,050,084
Serbia117.18,046,012
New Zealand153.87,879,005
Uganda16.67,813,170
Turkmenistan123.97,580,976
Costa Rica140.57,222,020
Nicaragua103.66,942,756
Zimbabwe45.96,933,837
Uruguay196.86,857,762
Belarus70.76,677,937
Kuwait153.36,636,245
Paraguay87.66,324,638
Oman113.65,934,585
Laos79.05,830,021
Tajikistan58.65,711,036
Panama129.75,684,366
Afghanistan13.15,228,706
Qatar172.65,059,023
Slovakia92.45,043,446
Ivory Coast16.74,528,780
Mongolia132.74,418,882
Croatia107.44,381,704
Lithuania144.03,872,942
Lebanon56.33,807,958
Bulgaria50.73,494,341
Ghana11.03,493,688
Sudan7.33,276,654
Palestinian Territories59.83,121,061
Bahrain174.33,047,351
Slovenia132.62,757,168
Guinea18.52,493,842
Libya35.72,485,598
Georgia58.12,311,840
Latvia120.42,247,185
Albania75.42,166,207
Kyrgyzstan31.92,112,639
Togo22.81,930,935
Senegal11.21,928,411
Mauritius147.31,875,132
Mauritania37.61,795,467
Tanzania2.81,699,523
Moldova41.81,681,763
North Macedonia80.51,675,793
Kosovo91.71,633,364
Bosnia and Herzegovina47.61,553,874
Malawi7.61,501,147
Estonia113.01,497,259
Botswana61.91,483,181
Syria7.81,422,377
Cyprus155.21,390,192
Trinidad and Tobago96.41,353,411
Armenia45.61,352,805
Zambia6.61,253,211
Fiji137.91,245,234
Jamaica39.11,161,250
Bhutan148.01,154,093
Somalia7.01,147,627
Benin9.21,144,390
Timor-Leste85.01,142,003
Malta192.5993,372
Niger3.9971,636
Cameroon3.6970,440
Mali4.6963,968
Luxembourg147.6937,282
Sierra Leone11.3923,880
Yemen2.6786,027
Maldives143.2778,312
Brunei174.8771,983
Madagascar2.6742,069
Namibia26.9697,262
Iceland200.7689,243
Guyana87.0687,627
Congo12.1686,096
Burkina Faso3.1661,796
Lesotho29.5635,881
Liberia11.5597,913
Cape Verde97.9550,192
Montenegro86.5543,569
Comoros58.9523,256
Suriname81.8483,838
Papua New Guinea5.1467,166
Equatorial Guinea30.8446,624
Central African Republic8.9436,772
Belize101.8412,002
Guinea-Bissau19.3388,626
Eswatini29.4344,255
Gabon14.4328,721
Barbados101.8292,896
Bahamas72.6288,008
Chad1.6275,026
Gambia10.9271,166
South Sudan2.3257,941
Samoa124.3248,729
DR Congo0.2219,768
Solomon Islands29.6208,046
Jersey190.0192,065
Haiti1.6184,769
Seychelles181.4179,462
Vanuatu45.0141,490
Isle of Man156.4133,546
Sao Tome and Principe59.4132,705
Cayman Islands189.1125,717
Tonga112.0119,535
Antigua and Barbuda120.3118,765
Djibouti10.9108,945
Bermuda171.6106,520
Andorra137.6106,428
Guernsey164.8104,457
Saint Lucia55.7102,696
Gibraltar303.2102,158
Kiribati67.782,167
Faroe Islands159.778,347
Greenland137.478,120
Grenada66.575,154
St Vincent and the Grenadines51.156,838
Turks and Caicos Islands143.656,343
Dominica77.856,179
Liechtenstein142.254,402
Saint Kitts and Nevis99.953,486
Monaco126.549,980
San Marino143.148,672
British Virgin Islands115.034,992
Cook Islands138.424,326
Anguilla134.120,284
Nauru136.714,863
Tuvalu101.612,114
Saint Helena129.57,892
Falkland Islands124.94,407
Burundi0.0283,396
Montserrat59.22,949
Niue145.72,352
Tokelau141.51,936
Pitcairn200.094
British Indian Ocean Territory00
Eritrea00
North Korea00
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands00
Vatican00

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