The head of the World Health Organisation says the end of the Covid-19 pandemic could be in sight this year.
Director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said he believed the crisis could draw to a close in 2022.
His optimistic message comes as countries around the world respond to a surge in cases fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Global infection rates hit a record high last week, with over a million a day in the run up to New Year.
Several countries have looked to reintroduce measures to prevent health systems being overwhelmed, despite some promising signs the strain may produce a less severe disease.
But the health chief struck a positive note during his end of year address and said this could be a pivotal period in the fight against coronavirus.
He said: ‘As we enter the third year of the pandemic, I am confident that this will be the year we end it, but only if we do it together.’
The director-general called for greater cooperation on disease prevention and surveillance, adding: ‘I believe that if we can make progress on these goals, we will be gathering again, at the end of 2022, not to mark the end of a third year of pandemic, but to celebrate a return to pre-Covid norms, when we gathered with our families and communities to celebrate together and cherish each other’s company and love.’
He urged developed nations to help the world hit the target of vaccinating 70% of people in all countries by the middle of 2022 to readdress huge imbalances between rates around the planet.
The health chief said pandemic prevention measures would need to be expanded and called on all countries to invest ‘in stronger primary health care, as the foundation of universal health coverage’.
The UK has recorded close to one million cases of Covid-19 in the last week, an unprecedented wave.
Ministers have resisted calls to reintroduce wholesale restrictions but have decided to reintroduce mask-wearing in school ahead of the start of the new term.
The Department for Education said the move will ‘maximise the number of children in school’ for the ‘maximum amount of time’.
The measures will be brought in for secondary schools from the start of the term until January 26.
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