More dangerous COVID variants to emerge, WHO warns

More dangerous COVID variants to emerge, WHO warns By Atif Ansari - February 20, 2022

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference on December 20, 2021 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

The World Health Organization on Friday warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over and said there's a possibility of new variants.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told attendees at the Munich Security Conference in Germany that vaccinations and the fact that Omicron has turned out to be a far less severe variant are "driving a dangerous narrative that the pandemic is over."

"But it's not. Not when 70,000 people a week are dying from a preventable and treatable disease," Ghebreyesus added.

"Not when 83% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine," he continued. "Not when health systems continue to strain and crack under the caseload. Not when we have a highly transmissible virus circulating almost unchecked, with too little surveillance to track its evolution."

Ghebreyesus also warned that the world should prepare for the potential of more variants to arise. 

"In fact, the conditions are ideal for more transmissible, more dangerous variants to emerge," he said.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, more than 65% of the total population of the United States is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, meaning either two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for those age 5 and up. 

As vaccinations become more commonplace, states and cities around the United States have begun to loosen their mask and vaccine mandates. New York and California, for instance, have announced plans to roll back rules. 

Also, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Friday said the city would end its vaccine mandate for businesses. Customers entering stores, restaurants, and other indoor locations will no longer have to show proof of vaccination. Other cities have announced similar measures. 

And as Insider's Aria Bendix reported, health experts say it's "reasonable" at this point to lift mask mandates in areas with high vaccination rates and low hospitalization rates due to COVID-19.

By Atif Ansari - February 20, 2022

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