Global COVID-19 cases shot up by 9.5 million, or 71%, since last week in what the World Health Organization has referred to as a “tsunami” of new infections.

On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefed reporters on the latest developments on efforts to battle COVID-19. Referring to last week's case numbers, Tedros grimly acknowledged that the world was experiencing the highest caseload since the pandemic began over two years ago.

“Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic,” said Tedros, adding that these numbers themselves were likely undercounted.

The COVID-19 Omicron variant, the latest strain that has been pushing up case numbers worldwide, is putting immediate strain on national healthcare systems, warned Tedros. While acknowledging the body of preliminary studies that suggest Omicron is less dangerous than earlier variants, Tedros said its contagiousness was contributing to the “tsunami” that is sweeping across the globe.

"Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and killing people. In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world," he said.

At the press briefing, Tedros also returned to other topics he has repeatedly emphasized, namely those related to expanded access to vaccinations and protective equipment like masks.

He criticized countries that were launching booster drives for previously vaccinated citizens as ineffective in bringing the pandemic to heel, arguing that it left billions unvaccinated. Going further, Tedros blasted some countries that were moving towards administering fourth doses for protection, exasperating the supply deficit worldwide.

Israel has been the most prominent in researching and rolling out fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines for elderly citizens, but U.S. health authorities have also authorized fourth doses for those with compromised immune systems. Earlier vaccinations before Omicron have been found to wane over time against it, but experts warn that the logistical burden of vaccinating every six months against the virus was difficult to sustain.

Tedros also repeated his desire to see countries commit to a vaccination goal that would see 70% of the world’s population inoculated by July. However, he did not express confidence that this goal would be met based on current rates of vaccination.

"At the current pace of [COVID-19] vaccine rollout, 109 countries would miss out on fully vaccinating 70% of their populations by the start of July 2022," Tedros said.