The simultaneous circulation of the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus is driving a “tsunami of cases”, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

“Delta and Omicron are twin threats that are driving up cases to record numbers, which again is leading to spikes in hospitalisations and deaths,” Tedros told a news briefing.

He warned that the rising cases will put “immense pressure” on healthcare systems already being stretched to their limits. The director-general stressed that a large number of health workers are also falling ill with Covid.

As 92 of the World Health Organization’s 194 member countries missed a target to vaccinate 40% of their populations by the end of this year, Tedros again urged countries to share vaccines more equitably and said that the emphasis on booster drives in richer countries could leave poorer nations short of doses.

“I call on leaders of rich countries and manufacturers to learn the lessons of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and now Omicron and work together to reach the 70% vaccination coverage,” the global health body chief added. “I want governments, industry and civil society to work with us on a campaign that targets 70% vaccine coverage in every country by the start of July.”

Meanwhile, WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that there was evidence of vaccines proving effective against the Omicron variant.

“As expected, T cell immunity holding up better against #Omicron,” she said in a tweet. “This will protect us against severe disease. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t.”

New Year’s Eve will mark the second anniversary of China alerting the World Health Organization about cases of “viral pneumonia” in Wuhan city.

Nearly 9,00,000 new cases were detected on average each day globally between December 22 and 28, Reuters reported.

Those figures are rising, with yet more records set on Wednesday:

  • France reported 2,08,000 cases. Fifty-three people are in intensive care and 184 deaths were recorded.
  • Greece also created a new 24-hour record of 28,828 cases.
  • The United Kingdom reported 1,83,037 new cases and the toll rose by 57.
  • Italy’s caseload rose from 78,313 on Tuesday, to 98,020 new cases on Wednesday
  • The United States recorded more than 2.65 lakh coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, its highest since January, when the country had recorded close to 2.50 lakh patients in a day, according to Johns Hopkins University.