The total number of Covid-19 cases registered worldwide passed 300 million on Friday (Jan 7), with the Omicron variant's rapid spread setting new infection records in dozens of countries over the last week.
In the past seven days, 34 countries have recorded their highest number of weekly cases since the start of the pandemic, including 18 nations in Europe and seven in Africa, according to a count based on official figures.
While far more contagious than previous coronavirus variants, Omicron appears to cause less severe illness than its predecessors.
Even as it spurred the world to record 13.5 million cases in the last week alone – 64 per cent higher than the previous seven days – the global average of deaths dropped 3 per cent.
France's public health authority said Friday that the risk of hospitalisation was about 70 per cent lower for Omicron, citing data from the US, the UK, Canada and Israel.
However with a global average of 2 million new cases being detected daily, experts warn the sheer numbers threaten to overwhelm health systems.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that Omicron should not be categorised as mild, as it "is hospitalising people and it is killing people".
"In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world."