The new coronavirus variant Omicron is spreading across the globe at an unprecedented rate, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
Cases of the heavily mutated variant have been confirmed in 77 countries.
But at a press conference, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was probably in many others that had yet to detect it.
Dr Tedros said he was concerned that not enough was being done to tackle the variant.
“Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.
The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa in November, and the country has since seen a surge in infections. President Cyril Ramaphosa has tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently isolated with mild symptoms.
A number of countries have introduced travel bans affecting South Africa and its neighbours following the emergence of Omicron, but this has failed to stop it from spreading around the world.