- WHO’s top experts seem to disagree on whether Omicron could spell the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- On Sunday, WHO’s regional director for Europe suggested the variant might offer widespread immunity.
- But on Monday, the head of WHO said it was “dangerous to assume” Omicron would be the last variant.
Top officials at the World Health Organization are expressing conflicting views this week on the likelihood that the Omicron variant’s dominance might signal an end of the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO’s director-general on Monday cautioned against assuming the pandemic was approaching an “endgame” and said it’s “dangerous” to think Omicron would be the last variant.
“On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing in Geneva.
“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out,” he said. “And how the acute phase could end. But it’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame.”
His warning came with health experts and pundits raising hopes the more contagious yet apparently milder Omicron variant could signal the final stretch of the pandemic’s acute period.
The day before, WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, told Agence France-Presse that “it’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame.”
Given how quickly Omicron is spreading around the world, Kluge said there was likely to be “quite some weeks and months a global immunity” — attributable to both infections and vaccines — along with “lowering seasonality.”
“We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before COVID-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back,” Kluge added.
Europe has reported nearly 115 million COVID infections among its 750 million residents, per a Reuters tally. Omicron, which is thought to induce less severe sickness than the Delta variant but can still lead to hospitalization and death, is now the dominant strain of the virus in most European nations, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The top US infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, also presented a rosier outlook for Americans, saying on Sunday he was “confident as you can be” that Omicron would peak in most states by mid-February.
He told ABC’s “This Week” that the US would start seeing a “turnaround” with the pandemic as daily cases had begun to fall.
The US reported about 222,000 COVID-19 cases Monday, about 1 1/2 weeks…