Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, addresses a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. /Reuters
The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Monday for the world to pull together and make the difficult decisions needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic within the next year.
"2022 must be the year we end the pandemic," he told reporters in Geneva.
Tedros said despite indications the Omicron variant is not more severe than the Delta variant, which is still the dominant strain, Omicron has been shown in early data to have higher transmissibility and a worrying resistance to vaccines.
With cases rising rapidly, Tedros stressed it was better to cancel events "now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later."
He insisted it was possible to halt the pandemic but it would require using all the tools at disposal, ranging from vaccines to mask-wearing and physical distancing. And perhaps, most importantly, the world needs to end the glaring inequity in access to vaccines, he said.
"If we are to end the pandemic in the coming year, we must end inequity."
The fast-spreading Omicron variant is now the main coronavirus strain in the United States, accounting for 73.2 percent of new cases over the past week for which data is available, its health authorities reported Monday.
Several European Union countries are imposing domestic and international travel restrictions to slow the spread of Omicron variant and the rising cases of COVID-19 across the continent.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 275 million, with over 5.3 million deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.