WHO warns Covid-19 pandemic is ‘far from over’ – Manila Bulletin

GENEVA, Switzerland — New surges in Covid infections show the pandemic is far from over, the head of the World Health Organization lamented on Tuesday, warning that the virus is spreading freely.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (AFP/MANILA BULLETIN

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he fears the number of cases will rise, putting more pressure on health systems and workers.

The number of Covid cases reported to the WHO has increased by 30% in the past two weeks, due to sub-variants of the Omicron strain and the lifting of control measures.

“New waves of viruses again demonstrate that Covid-19 is far from over. As the virus pushes us, we must push back,” he insisted.

He told a press conference that as transmission increased, governments also needed to roll out proven measures like mask-wearing and improved ventilation.

“Omicron subvariants, like BA.4 and BA.5, continue to cause waves of cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the world,” Tedros said.

“Surveillance has declined significantly – including testing and sequencing – making it increasingly difficult to assess the impact of variants on transmission, disease characteristics and the effectiveness of countermeasures. “

In addition, tests, treatments and vaccines are not being deployed effectively.

“The virus is circulating freely and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden according to their capacity,” he said, both in terms of hospitalization of acute cases and the growing number of people with Long Covid.

– ‘Uncertain and unpredictable’

The WHO’s Covid-19 emergency committee met via video conference on Friday and determined that the pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern – the highest alarm the WHO can sound.

WHO emergency director Michael Ryan told the meeting that recent changes in testing policies were hampering the detection of cases and monitoring the progress of the virus.

The committee stressed the need to reduce transmission because the implications of a pandemic caused by a novel respiratory virus would not be fully understood, the WHO said in a statement on Monday.

The group expressed concern about steep cuts in testing, leading to reduced surveillance and genomic sequencing.

“This hampers assessments of currently circulating and emerging variants of the virus,” the WHO said, fueling the inability to interpret transmission trends.

The committee said the evolutionary trajectory of the virus and the characteristics of emerging variants remained “uncertain and unpredictable”.

He said the absence of measures to reduce transmission increased the likelihood of “new, more adapted variants, with varying degrees of virulence, transmissibility and immune evasion potential”.

– Boost shot –

Meanwhile, the European office of the WHO has recommended a second booster shot of a Covid vaccine for the elderly and vulnerable groups.

Covid cases have risen sharply since late May across most of Europe.

The appeal followed Monday’s recommendation by European health and medicine agencies for a second booster shot for people over 60.

Coronavirus cases have increased by 57% in Moscow over the past week, health authorities in the Russian capital have announced.

“We recommend that you wear a mask in public places because the new Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants spread faster from person to person,” Moscow social services wrote on Telegram.

And hundreds of thousands of people were locked down in a small Chinese town after a single case of Covid-19 was detected as Beijing’s strict no-tolerance virus strategy showed no signs of abating.

The Wugang steel center in Henan province announced three days of “closed control”.

None of the city’s 320,000 people are allowed to leave their homes until Thursday noon. Local authorities had to provide basic necessities.

China is the latest major economy stuck to a zero-Covid policy, crushing new outbreaks with instant lockdowns, enforced quarantines and onerous travel restrictions despite mounting public fatigue and damage to the economy.

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