This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
70 per cent vaccination target must be met to ward off Omicron: WHO
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge across the world, the UN health agency on Tuesday said that it was crucial that more is done to help all countries receive lifesaving coronavirus jabs as quickly as possible.
The development comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) insisted that countries could not boost their way out of the pandemic.
Before the holiday period, 128 countries reported that they had identified Omicron, the WHO said, during a scheduled press briefing in Geneva.
WHO epidemiologist Dr Abdi Mahamud told journalists that there is still not enough data available to say whether the Omicron variant was less severe than other coronavirus strains.
He noted that in London, which has been “hit very hard” by spiking numbers of COVID infections, hospitalisation rates were more than 20 per cent lower now than they had been in 2020, before vaccinations were available.
“So the main message is, if you are vaccinated, you are protected, but if you are vulnerable or if you have not been vaccinated, this Omicron however light or mild it may be for others, it could hit you very hard. So, vaccination is very critical.”
Without the protection of a vaccine, the virus “replicates in an environment that’s overcrowded, not ventilated and not vaccinated,” said Dr Mahamud, who insisted that it was in the global interest” to vaccinate 70 per cent of national populations.
Guterres ‘encouraged’ by commitment to prevent nuclear war
“P5” is the term used to describe the five permanent Members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – and their joint statement issued on Monday on the prevention of nuclear war and arms races, has been welcomed by UN chief António Guterres.
The development follows a warning from the Secretary-General at the end of last year over the grave danger posed by the 13,000 nuclear weapons currently believed to be held by a handful of countries.
This threat is growing by the year, the UN chief said, adding that “nuclear annihilation” was “just one misunderstanding or miscalculation away”.
The UN leads global efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction through the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (or NPT).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an NPT review that was due to begin on Tuesday has been postponed until August.
Mr. Guterres insisted that the Treaty remains “our main hope to reverse” the global arms race.
Fire rips into COVID treatment centre for Myanmar refugees
A devastating fire has ripped through a COVID-19 treatment centre for Myanmar refugees sheltering in Bangladesh, the UN migration agency, IOM, has said.
In a tweet, IOM said that no-one was hurt at the health facility in Cox’s Bazar camp complex, after the blaze broke out suddenly on Sunday evening.
Pictures posted on social media show charred metal bed frames and workers clearing away piles of ash at the isolation and treatment centre for people with severe acute respiratory infections.
Despite the damage, health services are expected to “resume soon”, IOM said, while assessment teams continue their work to assist those in need.
They include many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled neighbouring Myanmar after a military campaign in 2017, that a former UN rights chief likened to “text book” ethnic cleansing.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.