The acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic could end next year but the coronavirus will not disappear, the World Health Organization’s Mike Ryan said on Wednesday.

Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, also said it was too early to draw conclusions on the severity of the Omicron variant until it had spread more widely to older people.

However, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters richer countries’ large-scale booster campaigns were “likely to prolong the pandemic”, as they diverted supplies away from poorer, less vaccinated countries, thereby “giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate”.

He went on to ask “everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to get behind the campaign to vaccinate 70%” of the world by mid-2022. Almost 100 countries are yet to meet the original target of vaccinating 40% of their populations, the WHO says.

According to a report published by the body on Tuesday, the number of new Covid infections of all variants grew by 57% in Europe in the week before 26 December, and by 30% in the Americas.


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