WHO Director Warns Against Assuming Omicron is Last COVID Variant, Pandemic Near 'Endgame'

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday it is dangerous to assume that the Omicron variant would be the last COVID-19 strain as global conditions are "ideal" for new mutations.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the WHO's executive board it is dangerous to presume the global pandemic is reaching the "endgame" after the fast-spreading Omicron variant emerged, with more cases reported in nine weeks than all of 2020, CNBC reported.

"There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end. But it's dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame," he said.

"On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge."

Tedros told the board there was an average of 100 COVID-19 cases reported to the organization every three seconds and someone died from the virus every 12 seconds. More than 80 million cases were reported globally since the Omicron variant was discovered.

The world can't "gamble on a virus whose evolution we cannot control or predict," he said, according to CNBC.

However, he was optimistic the COVID-19 pandemic could reach a turning point in 2022. He added "we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year," if certain goals are met.

The goals include countries following the WHO strategies by vaccinating 70 percent of their population by the middle of the year and improving the testing and sequencing rates to better track new variants, CNBC reported.

WHO Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge told Agence France-Presse that he is optimistic the Omicron variant could push the COVID-19 pandemic into an endgame in Europe due to global immunity, South China Morning Post reported. He added that at least 60 percent of Europeans could be infected by Omicron by March.

Once the surge in Omicron cases subsides, "there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality," Kluge said, according to South China Morning Post.

Tedros added that the world will be living with COVID-19 "for the foreseeable future" and the world needs to learn to manage it for future pandemics, the Associated Press reported.

"We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before COVID-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back," Kluge said, according to South China Morning Post.

WHO Director COVID-19 Concerns
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that it's dangerous to assume the Omicron variant will be the last strain of COVID-19 or the pandemic is reaching an endgame during a executive board meeting on Monday. Fabrice Coffrini / AFP/Getty Images