New York: The World Health Organization warned that the new coronavirus variant Omicron was spreading at an unprecedented rate and was likely already present in most countries around the world.
Since the new, heavily-mutated variant was first detected in southern Africa last month, it has been reported in 77 countries, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
His comments came amid growing evidence that the new variant might also be better at skirting vaccine protections than previous ones but could cause milder symptoms.
But Tedros cautioned against “dismissing Omicron as mild”.
“Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril,” he said.
The WHO chief also voiced concern that many countries are rushing to provide booster vaccine doses in response to the spread of Omicron, in light of the persistent glaring inequity in vaccine access between wealthy and poorer countries.