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WHO Laments Omicron Deaths as Fauci Sees Light in Tunnel

Anthony Fauci said US was leaving a “full-blown” pandemic behind, while drugmaker Pfizer forecast more than $50 billion in 2022 sales

A nurse administers a dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to a pupil at a school in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Reuters.


The World Health Organization (WHO) lamented that 500,000 Covid-19 deaths had been recorded since the Omicron variant was discovered, calling the toll “beyond tragic” as the top US researcher declared the country was leaving a “full-blown” pandemic behind.

Abdi Mahamud, the WHO’s incident manager, said that 130 million cases and 500,000 deaths had been recorded globally since Omicron was declared a variant of concern in late November.

It has since rapidly overtaken Delta as the world’s dominant variant because it is more transmissible, though it appears to cause less severe illness.

“In the age of effective vaccines, half a million people dying, it’s really something,” Mahamud said. “While everyone was saying Omicron is milder, they missed the point that half a million people have died since this was detected.”

Meanwhile, the US is heading out of the “full blown” pandemic phase of Covid-19, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said, as he predicted a combination of vaccinations, treatments and prior infection would soon make the virus more manageable.

Anthony Fauci told the Financial Times that he hoped there would be an end to all pandemic-related restrictions in the coming months, including mandatory wearing of masks.

In his most optimistic comments since the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Fauci outlined a scenario in which local health departments would lead the response to the virus rather than the US federal government.


Pfizer Profits Double

Separately, US drugmaker Pfizer forecast more than $50 billion in 2022 sales for its Covid-19 vaccine and therapies on Tuesday as the pharmaceutical giant reported a more than doubling of annual profits on strong sales.

Pfizer, whose vaccine developed with German company BioNTech was the first approved in the US to counter the deadly virus, forecast slightly lower 2022 revenues for the vaccine compared with the just-finished year.

But the drugmaker expects a big infusion of revenue from Paxlovid, the company’s pill for Covid-19.

Chief executive Albert Bourla described 2021 as a “watershed year” for Pfizer, adding that the company’s efforts in the pandemic “have fundamentally changed our company forever”.

Still, shares fell Tuesday following the results, which lagged behind analysts’ estimates in terms of fourth-quarter revenues.


Indian Toll ‘Well Over 500,000’: Experts

Meanwhile, a global initiative to get Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines to poorer nations has only received 5% of the donations sought to deliver on its aims this year, according to the WHO and aid groups.

The Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator budgeted $23.4 billion for its efforts from October 2021 to September 2022, of which it hoped $16.8 billion would come in the form of grants from richer countries. However, so far it has had just $814 million pledged.

Regionally, India’s official Covid-19 death toll passed 500,000 on Tuesday, although experts believe the real death toll is probably more than 3 million because of widespread under-reporting.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported a record high 49,567 new daily cases as the Omicron variant drives a wave of infections.

And in Hong Kong, an elderly man who returned a positive test for Covid-19 died on Tuesday, the city’s Hospital Authority said. This was the first death potentially linked with the virus in five months.

China reported 110 new confirmed coronavirus cases, up from 105 a day earlier and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee said five new cases were detected among games-related personnel.

New Zealand Cricket on Wednesday scrapped next month’s series against Australia due to strict border controls. New Zealand has some of the world’s toughest entry rules, including a 10-day hotel quarantine for all international arrivals.


  • George Russell, with AFP and Reuters





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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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