The head of the World Health Organization says that omicron is likely not the last variant of COVID-19 to arise.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, applauded an assortment of medical successes around the world but discouraged people from viewing the pandemic as though it is in the “endgame.”

“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end. But it’s dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Tedros said at a recent WHO executive board meeting. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”

Despite the high potential for variants, Tedros said, “we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year,” including reaching the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the world’s population and improving testing practices.

“It’s true that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases” to help prepare for pandemics in the future, he said. “But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50,000 deaths a week from a preventable and treatable disease.”

Tedros also advocated for increased funding to the WHO, claiming that “if the current funding model continues, WHO is being set up to fail. The paradigm shift in world health that is needed now must be matched by a paradigm shift in funding the world’s health organization.”

The WHO has worked with several other organizations to provide 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries.

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