WHO warns means to establish new Covid variants is diminishing as testing declines

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

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

“Our means 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 means to evaluate the identified variants and subvariants but additionally our means to trace and establish new ones.”

WHO Director-Normal Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned there’s the “ever current danger of extra harmful variants rising” because the virus continues to unfold and alter. Tedros stated “the pandemic is just not over however the finish is in sight,” contradicting 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, but it surely’s nonetheless a good distance off and the tunnel remains to be darkish with many obstacles that might journey us up if we do not take care,” Tedros stated.

The WHO is at present monitoring about 200 omicron sublineages, Van Kerkhove stated. The worldwide well being physique is retaining an in depth eye on omicron BA.2.75, BF.7, and BA.4.6 amongst different subvariants, she stated. 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 large Covid surges might be from season to season, Van Kerkhove stated. Some public well being consultants consider the virus will finally behave much like the flu, the place there are manageable waves of an infection throughout the fall and winter months.

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

Although the longer term is unsure, Tedros stated the world is in a “considerably higher place” than at another level throughout the pandemic. Two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants is vaccinated, together with three-quarters of well being care employees and older individuals, he stated.

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

“In most international locations, restrictions have ended and life seems to be very similar to it did earlier than the pandemic,” Tedros stated. “However 10,000 deaths every week is 10,000 too many when most of those deaths could possibly be prevented.”


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