GENEVA — The World Health Organization is cautiously optimistic about the likely coronavirus situation next year. 

Among other things, it is important that at least 70% of the population in each country is vaccinated by the middle of the year, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva on Wednesday.

Then it would be possible for the pandemic to run its course, at least with its severe illnesses, he said. 

“We can bring the phase of hospitalization and death to an end,” said WHO expert Mike Ryan. The WHO is also counting on further progress in the use of drugs in the treatment against COVID-19 next year. 

Tedros again urged states not to be hard-headed, but to help distribute vaccines equitably: “This is the time to rise above short-term nationalism and protect populations and economies against future variants by ending global vaccine inequity.” 

The current coronavirus surge led by the omicron variant is worrying, he said. Together with the delta variant, there could be a “tsunami of cases,” Tedros said. 

However, initial indications are that the overall course of the disease may be milder with omicron, he said. Nevertheless, the uncertainties in the assessment of the variant are still great.

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