New Delhi, Jan (PTI) The World Health Organization on Saturday called for strict implementation of public health and social measures as COVID-19 cases surge in most countries of the South-East Asia Region.
It also said though the Omicron variant of coronavirus may appear to be less severe, it should not be dismissed as mild'.
All preventive and protective measures must be implemented with full earnestness by one and all, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said.
"Authorities must implement situation-specific measures to arrest the further spread of the virus. People must adhere to these measures. Masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, ventilation, and physical distancing is an absolute must, she said in a statement.
Singh said Omicron variant should not be dismissed as mild'.
Emerging as the most predominant variant, this highly infectious variant is already overwhelming health systems around the world. Globally we are seeing hospitalisation and deaths from Omicron, she added.
We must also not forget that not every COVID-19 case is an Omicron infection. Other variants, including Delta, are also circulating, which, as we know, cause severe infections and deaths, the WHO regional director said.
She added that each positive case of COVID-19 should hence be a cause of concern.
We are aware that COVID-19 virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, for example at a conversational distance. The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated indoor settings or crowded settings, Singh said.
Often, people who are infectious do not always have symptoms or know that they are carrying the virus, so it is important to ensure good ventilation by opening windows and doors, if possible when sharing an indoor space with other people, she added.
Singh said it is extremely important for people to wear well-fitting masks and avoid crowds and big gatherings, along with taking other measures.
Scaling up COVID-19 vaccination coverage is another key preventive measure for COVID-19, and all efforts must continue to ensure that the high-risk population is protected at the earliest, she said.
Even after being fully vaccinated, people must continue to take all preventive and protective measures, she added.
To save lives, we must prevent overburdening of our health systems. An overburdened health system would neither be able to save preventable deaths from COVID-19 nor would it be able to deliver essential services to save lives from other diseases for which people may need surgery and urgent critical care, Singh said in the statement.
It's time to do all we can, to arrest the current surge, she said.