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The next variant of concern will most likely be more transmissible as compared to Omicron because it will have to overtake the strains that are currently circulating, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of the World Health Organisation (WHO), on Sunday. 

In addition to this, she warned that future variants may also have a greater ability for immune escape, meaning the vaccines will not be as effective against them. “We do not want to be in that situation. So, we want to make sure that we reduce the spread," she said. 

“We expect that with the right interventions, the circulation of Covid-19 will be low. But even within those circulations, there will be flare-ups among people who are not protected by the vaccine or those who have waning immunity," added Kerkhove. 

Further, the official said that the world may also see seasonal patterns for infection surges, as the coronavirus is a respiratory pathogen. “But the variants are a wild card. We still do not know everything about them and the future trajectory of that."

“What we do know, is that vaccines work. They prevent patients from needing hospitalisations and death. Also, wearing face masks, avoiding crowds and ventilation works," added Kerkhove, urging everybody to follow safety protocols. 

This comes days after the official had stated that now is not the time to let our guards down and asked people to continue wearing masks. 

“You will not have to wear a mask forever and you will not have to physically distance forever. But for now, we need to keep doing this. We will get out of this, but we are not quite there yet," she said. 

A few days ago, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also warned that conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge and it's dangerous to assume Omicron is the last one or that “we are in the endgame."

However, the WHO chief said the acute phase of the pandemic could still end this year if some key targets are met.

“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," Tedros said, adding: "On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge."

But he insisted that “we can end Covid-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year," by reaching goals like WHO's target to vaccinate 70% of the population of each country by the middle of this year, with a focus on people who are at the highest risk of Covid-19, and improving testing and sequencing rates to track the virus and its emerging variants more closely.

Earlier in January, the head of emergencies at the WHO, Dr Michael Ryan, had said that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic — deaths, hospitalisations and lockdowns — could be over this year if huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines are addressed quickly.

 

 

 

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