World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Program Executive Director Mike Ryan speaks at a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The world could be in control of Covid-19 by next year “if we’re really lucky,” World Health Organization officials said on Monday.

Even if the Delta variant is spreading rapidly around the world, WHO officials are still optimistic that world leaders could bring the pandemic under control in the next year.

“I would like to say it will end this year, but I really don’t think so,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Emergency Health Program. “If we’re really lucky, we’ll have it under control next year.”

The pandemic could end sooner if countries ensure vaccines are distributed fairly to poorer nations, practice social distancing and adequately fund hospitals, according to Ryan, who asked a question from the son of one of his colleagues, Covid’s technical director Maria Van Kerkhove , answered.

Countries with high vaccination rates could end the pandemic for them sooner, he said, criticizing world leaders for not sharing their vaccine supplies with poorer nations as much as possible.

“Children should ask their governments … so why don’t we share,” he said when answering Cole Van Kerkhove’s question. “For me that is the big problem that we have right now, we don’t share enough, we are not fair and we know that we learned that in school.”

Many parts of the world are still seeing an increase in cases, Van Kerkhove said. “In the past seven days, on a global scale, there has been 11.5% of cases and the number of deaths has increased 1%.”

There has been an increase in cases in many regions of the world over the past week. Europe saw almost a 21% increase, Southeast Asia saw a 16.5% increase, the Western Pacific region saw an increase of about 30%, and the Eastern Mediterranean region saw cases increase by 15%.

Covid deaths have also increased in four of six WHO regions in the past seven days. The western Pacific saw deaths increase 10%, Southeast Asia increased 12%, the eastern Mediterranean increased 4% and the African region is still suffering from a recent surge in transmission.

Agency officials also said that while experts have seen Covid infections bypassing vaccination protection, these cases are almost always mild.

New variants that could lead to an increase in breakthrough cases are still possible. “The Delta variant will not be the last worrying variant we will talk about,” said Van Kerkhove.

The longer people around the world stay unvaccinated and the social mix continues, the greater the risk that a more dangerous variant will emerge. WHO officials said international travel should only take place when absolutely necessary.

“Everything you do in a pandemic increases or decreases the risk, there is no such thing as zero risk, it’s about minimizing the risk,” said Ryan.