This Article is From Dec 16, 2021

How Omicron Wave Could've Been Prevented: Top WHO Scientist To NDTV

"It was in... the world's hands to prevent this, if we had used the tools that we have equitably around the world," Dr Soumya Swaminathan told NDTV.

Soumya Swaminathan said what went wrong "can be described in many ways, including vaccine nationalism".

New Delhi:

The Omicron wave could have been prevented, the World Health Organisation's top scientist Soumya Swaminathan told NDTV as the new variant appears set to become the dominant strain across the world.

"It was in... the world's hands to prevent this, if we had used the tools that we have equitably around the world," Dr Soumya Swaminathan told NDTV on Wednesday.  

"We had enough vaccines to vaccinate people around the world. Perhaps we could have reduced the chances of this happening," she added.

"What went wrong can be described in many ways, including vaccine nationalism... I think every country's leaders wanted to protect their own people... But in a pandemic, you also have to keep this in mind that if you are not protecting people around the world, the virus is going to change and come back in a different variant," she said.

Omicron was first detected in Africa, a continent where multiple pockets are yet to receive a single dose of vaccine. Within a month, it has surfaced in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe.

Earlier on Wednesday, European Union chief Urusula von der Leyen warned that the Omicron variant could become dominant in Europe next month. The UK has already seen one death from Omicron, which has so far been seen as a milder strain than Delta, which caused havoc earlier this year.

Today, the UK recorded its highest daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, which is suspected to be driven by Omicron -- -- 78,610 fresh Covid cases were reported -- around 10,000 more than the last high recorded in January. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of a "tidal wave" of infections in the coming days.

India has so far seen 68 cases of Omicron – the maximum of number of 32 being reported from Maharashtra which bore the brunt of Covid this year and the last.

Rajasthan is next with 17 cases, Karnataka has 3, Gujarat 4, Kerala 1, Telangana 2, West Bengal 1 and Andhra Pradesh 1. Six cases have been detected in Delhi and one in Chandigarh.

Telangana and West Bengal reported their first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while four more persons tested positive in Maharashtra.

Dubbed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, Omicron is potentially more contagious than the earlier strains of the virus, though experts say it is too early to say anything conclusively.

The emergence of the new strain has caused concern across the world. With markets showing signs of recovery two years into the pandemic, there is apprehension of a setback as most nations declared a fresh set of travel restrictions.