As many friends and families consider whether to celebrate Christmas together, World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a dire warning on Wednesday that “anyone who ignores COVID-19 is…perpetuating it”.
WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, in his message said the pandemic was far from over.
Citing the latest modelling data, Al-Mandhari said that 22 countries and territories in the region would probably see more than 17 million cases and over 314,000 deaths by the end of the year.
In spite of the holiday season, “failure to apply the established public health and social measures could cause alarming surges in the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths,” he said.
While the Omicron variant has already been found in 14 countries across the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region, more research is needed before its impact on existing vaccines, diagnosis and treatment, is fully understood, the WHO Regional Director explained.
“COVID-19 will continue to evolve in the months to come; simply because the virus continues to mutate.
“This is what viruses do: they change as they circulate,” he said.
He underscored that following COVID-19 prevention guidelines is “the only way we can stop the virus from spreading…now more than ever”.
Al-Mandhari explained why everyone needs to stick to the guidelines: “First, the winter season has been characterized by spikes of cases and deaths.
“Second, the holiday season with gatherings of friends and families. Third, the arrival of Omicron, which has the capacity to become a dominant variant in a matter of weeks wherever it emerges.
“I must also remind you that increasing levels of social mixing provide the virus with the highest opportunity to spread,’’ he said
Although everyone is tired of hearing about COVID-19 and its restrictions, “we need to face an undeniable fact…the virus is still very much present among us,” he added.