WHO: 'Toxic mix' of low vaccine coverage and testing was perfect 'recipe' for new variants

1 December 2021, 17:19 | Updated: 1 December 2021, 17:22

Dr Tedros Adhanom warned countries to take the new variant 'extremely seriously'
Dr Tedros Adhanom warned countries to take the new variant 'extremely seriously'. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A "toxic mix" of low vaccine coverage and testing helped create a "recipe" for new variants including Omicron, the World Health Organisation has said.

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The WHO's Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned every country should take emergence of the new Omicron variant "extremely seriously" urging leaders to "take rational" measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

His comments come after nine further cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant have been identified in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

It means the total number of confirmed cases in England is now 22 whilst a further case has also been identified in Scotland, bringing the total across the nation to 10.

Speaking during a news briefing today, WHO Director-General Dr Adhanom said:" The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention.

"At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow.

"WHO takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country.

"But it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do.

"And it’s what this virus will continue to do, as we long as we allow it to continue spreading."

But despite asking world leaders to implement measures to curb the spread of the virus, Dr Adhanom criticised countries who had introduced blanket travel bans calling it "deeply concerning".

He said:" We call on all countries to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures, in keeping with the International Health Regulations.

"This includes measures to delay or reduce the spread of the new variant, such as screening of passengers prior to travelling and/or upon arrival, or the application of quarantine to international travellers.

"Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods."

Ending his speech, the Director-General added: "Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing – a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants.

"This virus has demonstrated that it will not simply disappear.

"How many more lives and livelihoods it takes is up to us.

"Ending the pandemic is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice."