The current COVID-19 situation in our Region continues to be of concern. As of 22 January 2022, there have been more than 18.2 million cases reported, and almost 320,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. This marks a 37% increase in cases compared to the previous week, and a 186% increase in cases compared to the same time last year.

While we don’t have the exact figures from countries regarding hospitalizations attributed to Omicron, there is an increased burden on health care systems and health care workers as a direct result of the new variant that comprises the majority of new cases detected.

Many of us who were aware of only a few people in our immediate circles being infected last year, are now seeing the virus appear in our own homes and among those closest to us. And let me be clear Omicron can still cause a full spectrum of disease: from asymptomatic infection, mild infection, hospitalization, and even death.

As countries face increasing cases and deaths, we are seeing increasing signs of COVID-19 fatigue among the public, as well as concern about the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, and confusion around booster doses and the effectiveness of available vaccines against the new variants.

The virus is trying to remain one step ahead of us, as we collectively work to contain it. Omicron will not be the last variant. As long as we have disease transmission, together with low levels of vaccination coverage and limited adherence to prevention measures in our Region, we

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