© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

By Emma Farge and Mrinalika Roy

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of the most acute phase of COVID-19, urging nations to stay focused to overcome the pandemic.

“It is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting on the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly of 6 million people.

“On the contrary, overall, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge. »

Although Omicron has pushed the total number of cases to nearly 350 million, its less lethal impact and the growing prevalence of vaccines have led to optimism in some regions that the worst of the pandemic may be over.

Tedros, the first African WHO chief to run unopposed for a second term, has called for discipline and unity in the fight against coronavirus.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical juncture," he said at a press conference earlier. “We must work together to end the acute phase of this pandemic. We cannot let it continue to drag on, between panic and neglect. »

GERMANY'S BIGGEST DONOR

Countries must maximize the strategies and tools already available, such as testing and inoculation, for the global health emergency to end this year, he said.

Tedros' bid for a second term received a boost when the WHO suspended a decision on his native Ethiopia's request to investigate accusations of links to rebel forces.

He told board members he wanted an overhaul of the agency's funding model, with Germany now the biggest donor, supplanting Washington which had accused the WHO of pro-China bias under the administration of former President Donald Trump.

The United States is resisting a funding proposal that would make the UN health body more independent, raising doubts about the Biden administration's long-term support.

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