The head of the World Health Organization has said he is ‘confident’ that this year will be the end of Covid.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the ‘acute’ stage of the global pandemic should finish this year, provided countries share vaccines and work together.
Speaking at a Covid press briefing on Thursday, Mr Ghebreyesus warned that the Omicron variant was likely to cause a ‘tsunami of cases’ around the world.
But he struck a more positive note in his New Year’s Eve message, highlighting the range of tools available to countries that should see cases, hospitalisations and deaths across the world be a thing of the past.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said the ‘acute’ stage of the global pandemic should finish this year, provided countries share vaccines and work together
WHO tells wealthy nations ‘you can’t boost your way out of the pandemic’
The World Health Organisation has told wealthy countries they ‘cannot boost their way out of the pandemic’ and accused them of worsening vaccine inequality.
Meanwhile, Nigeria said it had incinerated more than a million doses of Covid vaccine that had been donated by developed countries several months ago and had since passed their expiry dates.
Africa’s most populous country has so far fully vaccinated four million people — less than three percent of the adult population and well short of the government’s target of 112 million people by the end of next year.
Speaking last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the rush in richer nations to roll out additional Covid vaccine doses was deepening the inequity in access to jabs that is prolonging the global pandemic.
The UN health agency has long warned that the glaring inequity in access to Covid vaccines, which has left many vulnerable people in poorer nations without a single jab as richer countries roll out broad booster programmes.
Mr Ghebreyesus said: ‘If we end inequity, we end the pandemic, and end the global nightmare we have all lived through. And this is possible.
He continued: ‘As we enter the third year of the pandemic, I am confident that this will be the year we end it, but only if we do it together.’
And in a social media post on the same day he said the world could return to pre-Covid norms by the end of the year
He said: ‘My first resolution is to do all I can to help end the pandemic, in collaboration with all governments, stakeholders and communities.
‘To do that, we need all countries to work together to reach the global target of vaccinating 70 per cent of people in all countries by the middle of 2022.
‘Second, we need to build a stronger global framework for global health security.
‘2022 marks the start of a negotiations by countries on a global pandemic accord to strengthen the governance, financing, systems and tools the world needs to prevent, prepare for, detect and respond rapidly to epidemics and pandemics.
He continued: ‘And third, all countries must invest in stronger primary health care, as the foundation of universal health coverage.
‘I believe that if we can make progress on these goals, we will be gathering again, at the end of 2022, not to mark the end of a third year of pandemic, but to celebrate a return to pre-Covid norms, when we gathered with our families and communities to celebrate together and cherish each other’s company and love.’
But he warned further new variant like Omicron could mutate if countries continue to ‘hoard’ vaccines rather than sharing them with nations across the world.
He said: ‘Narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding by some countries have undermined equity and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of the Omicron variant, and the longer inequity continues, the higher the risks of the virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict.’
And on Thursday the health chief struck a cautious tone, claiming Omicron would leave to a ‘tsunami of cases’ over the coming months.
Mr Ghebreyesus said: ‘I am highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases.
‘This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse.’