WHO chief warns the pandemic is not entering its endgame yet

01/24/22 By Rhiannon Melton

The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned Monday that talk of coronavirus nearing its “endgame” is premature, and it’s dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant.

Photo courtesy of MGN

The WHO maintains that conditions are optimal for new coronavirus variants to emerge. According to Tedros, the acute phase of the pandemic could still end this year—only if certain conditions are met.  

“There are different scenarios for how this could play out 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,” Tedros said during the WHO’s executive board meeting on Monday. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”  

But Tedros said the acute phase could end in 2022.  “We can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it by this year,” Tedros said, if key goals are achieved, such as the WHO’s target to vaccinate 70% of the world population—with a focus on high-risk individuals—and improving COVID-19 testing and sequencing efficiency.  

The omicron variant was first discovered in November, and quickly superseded delta as the dominant variant in many countries, including the U.S. While omicron has proven to be a milder version of the delta variant thus far, it’s more likely to infect those vaccinated or those who have caught previous COVID-19 variants.