World breaks record COVID-19 cases as WHO issues warning on Omicron

WHO has warned that Omicron still poses "very high" risk and could overwhelm healthcare systems.

Accordingly, to an AFP tally revealed on Wednesday, the world hit a record number of COVID-19 infections in a week. This came as the World Health Organization (WHO) also warned that Omicron still poses a "very high" risk and could overwhelm healthcare systems as the highly transmissible variant fuelled record outbreaks in many countries. Between December 22 and December 28 registered infections were up 37 percent globally compared to the previous seven-day period, according to the AFP tally based on national databases. A total of 6.55 million cases were detected, the highest number since the WHO declared a pandemic in March 2020.The surge, currently worst in Europe, is forcing governments to find a difficult balance between re-imposing restrictions and the need to keep economies and societies open.

Although studies suggest that Omicron, which is currently the most dominant strain in some countries, is associated with a lower risk of hospitalization, the WHO nevertheless advises caution. "The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high," the UN health agency said. Adding "Consistent evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days." The WHO warned further data was needed to understand Omicron's severity. Its rapid growth "will still result in large numbers of hospitalisations, particularly amongst unvaccinated groups, and cause widespread disruption to health systems and other critical services", said WHO Europe's COVID Incident Manager Catherine Smallwood.