The World Health Organization is warning countries that they should reconsider how quickly they roll back their public health restrictions despite mounting frustration worldwide with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In a call with reporters, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, said the current situation does not warrant a reversal of some of the restrictions put in place to curb the pandemic. Van Kerkhove explained that not many countries have reached their peak in Omicron cases to pursue any relaxation of regulations and added that vaccination rates in many countries remain too low to do so safely.

“I know everyone wants to get back to normal, but this level of intense circulation and death is not normal,” said Van Kerkhove. “It is not a global situation that should be accepted nor tolerated when we have the tools to change the course of this pandemic.”

Van Kerkhove's warning was echoed by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who criticized the narrative in some countries with higher vaccination rates combined with the lower severity of Omicron that justified a relaxation of protective measures.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "More transmission means more deaths. We are not calling for any country to return to a so-called lockdown. But we are calling on all countries to protect their people using every tool in the toolkit, not vaccines alone. It’s premature for any country to surrender or to declare victory.”

The vaccination inequity has been a subject that WHO has highlighted repeatedly. While high-income countries in the West, East Asia or the Gulf have achieved high vaccination rates, lower-income countries have struggled to bring their rates up or secure supplies of the vaccines. WHO has worked with vaccine manufacturers to increase supplies to address this gap, but Tedros said he does not expect the gap to narrow soon.

Several countries with higher vaccination rates have rolled back their restrictions almost completely. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has moved to roll back nearly all the public health restrictions in the U.K. while others like Canada are considering further relaxing their health restrictions.

However, other countries have tightened their policies to bring down the number of unvaccinated citizens. France, Austria and Belgium are among those that have done so to curb the spread of Omicron.