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World Records 500,000 COVID Deaths Since Omicron, WHO Says ‘Beyond Tragic’

Even though the Omicron variants appears to cause less severe illness, it has rapidly overtaken Delta as the world's dominant Covid variant because it is more transmissible.

Published: February 9, 2022 8:59 AM IST

By News Desk | Edited by Rajashree Seal

Maya Goode, a COVID-19 technician, performs a test on Jessica Sanchez outside Asthenis Pharmacy in Providence, R.I., Dec. 7, 2021. Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Geneva: Around half a million COVID-19 deaths had been recorded since the Omicron variant was discovered, said the World Health Organisation terming the count as “beyond tragic”. The global health body’s incident manager Abdi Mahamud said that since Omicron was declared a variant of concern in late November, around 130 million cases and 500,000 deaths had been recorded globally.

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Even though the Omicron variants appears to cause less severe illness, it has rapidly overtaken Delta as the world’s dominant Covid variant because it is more transmissible. During a live interaction on WHO’s social media channels, Mahmud said, “In the age of effective vaccines, half a million people dying, it’s really something. While everyone was saying Omicron is milder, (they) missed the point that half a million people have died since this was detected. It’s beyond tragic.”

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Meanwhile, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said the sheer number of Omicron cases was “astounding”, while the true number of cases and deaths would be much higher than just those known about. “It makes the previous peaks look almost flat,” she said.

“We’re still in the middle of this pandemic. I hope we’re getting closer to the end of it,” she said. “Many countries have not passed their peak of Omicron yet.”Van Kerkhove said she was extremely concerned that the numbers of deaths had increased for several weeks in a row. “This virus continues to be dangerous,” she said.

The WHO is tracking four sub-lineages of Omicron. While the BA.1 sub-strain was dominant, BA.2 is more transmissible and is expected to account for an increasing share of Omicron cases.

Van Kerkhove said there was no indication thus far to suggest that BA.2 resulted in more severe Covid disease than BA.1, but stressed that it was still “very early days” in evidence-gathering. Mahamud added that it was as yet unknown whether someone could be infected with both BA.1 and BA.2 at the same time.

According to an AFP tally compiled from official sources on Tuesday, COVID-19 has so far killed nearly 5.75 million people since it emerged in China in December 2019.

(With inputs from AFP)

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Published Date: February 9, 2022 8:59 AM IST