WHO warning over Xmas plans: An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled

21 December 2021, 16:10

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks to reporters
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks to reporters. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The World Health Organisation has urged people to scale back on their Christmas plans as it warned "an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled".

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It comes amid the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, with the strain now dominant in many countries.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters: "All of us are sick of this pandemic, all of us want to spend time with friends and family, all of us want to get back to normal.

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"The fastest way to do this is for all of us, leaders and individuals, to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others.

"In some cases, that will mean cancelling or delaying events, just as we have had to cancel the reception we planned to have with you (journalists) today.

"But an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled. It's better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later."

Dr Tedros said the pandemic could be ended in 2022 if 70% of the population of every country of the world has been vaccinated by the middle of next year.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted introducing new restrictions in England, saying the data around Omicron is being kept under constant review.

After a special two-hour meeting of the Cabinet on Monday, Mr Johnson said the Government needs to be clearer about the rate of hospital admissions associated with Omicron, and the effectiveness of vaccines against it, before imposing additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

He added the Government will "reserve the possibility" of implementing new restrictions.

Any new restrictions are now likely to come after Christmas.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has told people to stay at home as much as is feasible after Christmas, including over New Year, as the capacity at mass events was drastically slashed.

The First Minister said she was advising people to limit contact with others as much as they can, while hospitality venues face three weeks of new measures.

The Netherlands has gone the furthest of any country over Omicron, introducing a strict lockdown over the Christmas period.

Meanwhile health officials in the US said the variant accounted for 73% of new infections last week and is now the dominant version of Covid in the country.