"I've never been more concerned" – Stark warning from WHO official on Omicron 5 months ago

"I've never been more concerned" – Stark warning from WHO official on Omicron

"It really is important that every single human being does everything they can to protect health services by minimising social contact and by doing everything possible to prevent transmission of this virus."

The World Health Organisation has issued a damning warning concerning the spread of Covid-19 cases across the world.

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It arrives as the Omicron variant continues to rise in the crunch run-up to Christmas amidst fresh fears that new measures may be recommended by NPHET in a move to curb social contacts.

Speaking on Sky News on Wednesday night (15 December) following the announcement of a record number of daily Covid cases in the UK (78,610), WHO special envoy on Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro sounded a note of high alarm.

"It's not helpful for people in my position to try to make precise predictions," he began.

"But I've been watching this pandemic and working on it since January 2020 and I have never been more concerned than I am tonight – not just about the UK but about the world."

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Despite early reports that the Omicron variant has presented milder symptoms than previous iterations, Nabarro urged extreme caution for everyone right now.

"Even if Omicron is several times less unpleasant than Delta, I want to stress the absolute number of people who are going to get infected. Some of whom will be people who've had double vaccination," he said.

"This absolute number is going to lead to an already massively stressed health system and health workforce being further overloaded.

"And so it really is important that every single human being does everything they can to protect health services by minimising social contact and by doing everything possible to prevent transmission of this virus."

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Speaking on Thursday morning ahead of a European Council debate, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke of the "significant concern" attached to the new variant.

"Today, the European Council will obviously discuss the situation in relation to Covid-19 and the Omicron variant – significant concern now obviously in terms of the capacity of that variant to spread rapidly and create pressure on our societies and our health systems," he said.

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"So, today we'll be looking for greater coordination on a number of fronts in respect of Covid-19 in terms of the digital cert, in terms of the vaccination program and in terms of travel also, and in terms of getting greater science in relation to the Omicron variant in particular."

 

On Wednesday evening, the Department of Health confirmed 4,235 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

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As of Wednesday morning, 470 patients are hospitalised in relation to the virus, of which 105 are in ICU.

The Department also confirmed 24 additional cases of the Omicron variant, bringing to 42 the total number of cases that have been identified following whole genome sequencing.

In a bid to speed up the booster vaccine rollout, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has accepted a recommendation to waive the 15-minute wait period after a person is vaccinated.

It comes after GPs said that they could vaccinated more people if the observation time after administering a shot was removed.

The Health Minister told RTÉ's Six One News that information gathered about the new strain so far is "very sobering".

"We know it is far more transmissible than Delta. We know it still is making people sick," he said.

"There's a question as to how severe it is in terms of hospitalisations.

"But we certainly are taking it and our public health advisors are taking it very seriously."