BRASILIA (Reuters) - World Health Organization Emergency Director Mike Ryan on Wednesday refuted statements made by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus would be welcome and that it could even bring about the end of the pandemic.
In an interview earlier, Bolsonaro played down the advance of the new variant in Brazil.
During a news conference in Geneva, when asked about the statements made by the Brazilian president, Ryan affirmed that while Omicron is "less severe as a viral infection in an individual, that doesn't mean it's a mild disease."
There are many people around the world in hospitals, in ICUs, gasping for breath, which "obviously makes very clear that this is not a mild disease," he added.
"It's a vaccine-preventable disease, it's a disease that can be prevented by taking - to a greater extent - strong personal precautions to avoid infection and getting vaccinated," he said.
"There is so much we can do. This is not the time to give up, this is not the time to give in, this is not the time to declare that this is a welcome virus. No virus is welcome that kills people. Especially when that mortality and that suffering is preventable with the appropriate use of vaccination," he said.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Peter Frontini; Editing by Sandra Maler)