The World Health Organization says the global weekly count of new coronavirus cases hit a new high last week.
The WHO said on Thursday that about 9.52 million new infections were reported during the seven-day period through January 2. That was up 71 percent from the previous week.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that cases caused by the Omicron variant appear less severe than those caused by the Delta variant, especially in people who have been vaccinated.
But he added, "Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people."
He warned that hospitals are becoming overcrowded and understaffed, calling for thorough measures to prevent infections.
Tedros noted that vaccinations remain highly effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death.
He said that at the current pace of vaccination, 109 countries would miss the target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of their populations by the start of July 2022.
The WHO chief called for immediate efforts to distribute vaccines in a fair manner.