World heads into New Year facing COVID ‘tsunami,’ WHO warns

Millions around the world are bracing for drastically curtailed New Year celebrations as record coronavirus cases fueled by the Omicron variant see the WHO warn that a COVID-19 “tsunami” threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems.

Coronavirus, first detected two years ago and declared a global pandemic in March 2020, has killed more than 5.4 million people, triggered economic crises and seen societies ricochet in and out of lockdowns.

The latest variant, Omicron, while tentatively considered to cause milder illness, has pushed infection levels to record levels in recent days in many countries, forcing governments to reimpose restrictions.

A medical worker tends to a patient at COVID-19 intensive care unit at The Institute of Clinical Cardiology in Rome, on December 30, 2021. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

From Greece to Mexico, from Barcelona to Bali and across swaths of Europe, authorities have canceled or curtailed public gatherings, either closing or imposed curfews on nightclubs.

“I am highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” says WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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