The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Thursday that where the COVID-19 Omicron variant seems less severe than the delta, it should not be classified as mild.
“Like the previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it’s killing people,” he said. “Indeed, the tsunami of cases is so vast and rapid, that it is taking a toll on health systems around the world.”
Mangala Narasimhan, director of critical-care services at Northwell Health in New York, told the Wall Street Journal that only 10% of patients end up in the ICU due to illness, compared to up to 35% in the previous surge. She told the newspaper that people who are vaccinated are hospitalized for an average of four days, while those who are not vaccinated stay for about two weeks.
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WHO’s head of emergencies, Dr Michael Ryan, said it was “wishful thinking” that Omicron could be the final form of the outbreak and warned: “There is still a lot of energy in this virus.”
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Added Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical chief on COVID-19: “I think it’s very unlikely that Omicron will be the last version you’ll hear us discuss.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report