WHO warns capacity to determine new Covid variants is diminishing

RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head a.i. Rising Illnesses and Zoonosis on the World Well being Group (WHO), speaks throughout a information convention on the scenario of the coronavirus on the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The World Well being Group on Thursday warned that it’s struggling to determine and monitor new Covid variants as governments roll again testing and surveillance, threatening the progress made within the battle in opposition to the virus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, mentioned virus continues to be circulating at an “extremely intense degree” world wide. The WHO is “deeply involved” that it’s evolving at a time when there isn’t a longer strong testing in place to assist quickly determine new variants, Van Kerkhove mentioned.

“Our capacity to trace variants and subvariants world wide is diminishing as a result of surveillance is declining,” Van Kerkhove informed reporters throughout an replace in Geneva. “That limits our capacity to evaluate the identified variants and subvariants but additionally our capacity to trace and determine new ones.”

WHO Director Common Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned there’s the “ever current threat of extra harmful variants rising” because the virus continues to unfold and alter. Tedros mentioned “the pandemic will not be over however the finish is in sight,” contradicting U.S. President Joe Biden’s assertion earlier this week that the pandemic had ended.

“We have now spent two-and-a-half years in an extended darkish tunnel and we’re simply starting to glimpse the sunshine on the finish of that tunnel, however it’s nonetheless a good distance off and the tunnel continues to be darkish with many obstacles that would journey us up if we do not take care,” Tedros mentioned.

The WHO is at present monitoring about 200 omicron sublineages, Van Kerkhove mentioned. The worldwide well being physique is conserving a detailed eye on omicron BA.2.75, BF.7, and BA.4.6 amongst different subvariants, she mentioned. These variants have began to realize a foothold in international locations such because the U.S. the place omicron BA.5, the quickest spreading variant but, has been dominant for months.

Well being authorities nonetheless aren’t in a position to precisely predict how huge Covid surges will likely be from season to season, Van Kerkhove mentioned. Some public well being consultants imagine the virus will ultimately behave much like the flu, the place there are manageable waves of an infection in the course of the fall and winter months.

“We do not but have predictability with SARS-CoV-2 like we’ve different varieties of pathogens the place we count on a seasonality. We might get there, however we’re not there that. That is the message — we’re not there but,” Van Kerkhove mentioned.

Although the longer term is unsure, Tedros mentioned the world is in a considerably higher place in contrast with every other level within the pandemic. Two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants is vaccinated, together with three-quarters of well being care employees and older individuals, he mentioned

Weekly Covid deaths have continued to say no dramatically throughout all areas of the world and at the moment are 10% of the pandemic’s peak in January 2021, in line with WHO knowledge. Greater than 9,800 individuals died from Covid in the course of the week ending Sept. 18, down 17% from the prior week.

“We’re in a considerably higher place than we’ve ever been. In most international locations restrictions have ended and life seems to be very similar to it did earlier than the pandemic,” Tedros mentioned. “However 10,000 deaths every week is 10,000 too many when most of those deaths may very well be prevented.”

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