WHO Says Pandemic Not Over Yet, Omicron Won’t Be Last ‘Variant of Concern’

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
January 18, 2022 Updated: January 18, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over as new variants of the novel coronavirus are likely to emerge given current high levels of transmission, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Tuesday.

The Omicron variant, which is highly transmissible, is unlikely to be the last strain of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, as the virus is still “circulating at a very intense level” worldwide, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead officer on COVID-19, said at a briefing in Geneva.

“We’re hearing a lot of people suggest that Omicron is the last variant, that it’s over after this. And that is not the case,” she said.

Van Kerkhove said countries must keep up measures to curb the transmission of the virus to reduce severe disease and deaths, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded areas.

Researchers and health experts are hopeful that the Omicron variant, while highly transmissible, is less severe, and poses milder symptoms in infected people, compared with other strains such as the Delta variant.

Many have questioned in recent weeks whether the variant heralds the end of the pandemic.

Bruce Aylward, senior adviser at the WHO, said that if countries are lax in their handling of the virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, “there’ll be more transmission, more infections, more mutations and more risk in terms of variants.

“There are consequences, additional risks if you throw in the towel. We don’t understand all of the consequences of letting this thing run, so we really want to reduce transmission as much as possible,” he said.

Aylward added, “Most of what we’ve seen so far in areas of uncontrolled transmission has been we paid a price for the variants that emerge and new uncertainties we have to manage as we go forward.”

Van Kerkhove said she believes the Omicron variant “won’t be the last variant of concern.”

Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it’s too early to tell whether the Omicron variant will bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.

“It’s an open question as to whether or not Omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination everyone is hoping for,” Fauci said at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda virtual event.

“Because you have such a great deal of variability with new variants emerging,” he said, casting doubt that the variant spells the endgame for the pandemic.

“I would hope that that’s the case. But that would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response of the prior variant,” Fauci said when asked whether the virus may become endemic this year.

Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said research efforts should focus on COVID-19 vaccines that can provide broad protection against new strains.

“We don’t want to get into a whack-a-mole for every variant, where you have to make a booster against a particular variant,” said Fauci. “You’ll be chasing it forever.”

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.