WHO warns ability to identify new Covid variants is diminishing

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned that it is struggling to identify and monitor new Covid variants as governments roll again testing and surveillance, threatening the progress made within the combat in opposition to the virus.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, stated the virus is nonetheless circulating at an “incredibly intense level” all over the world. The WHO is “deeply concerned” that it is evolving at a time when there is not sturdy testing in place to assist quickly identify new variants, Van Kerkhove stated.

“Our ability to track variants and subvariants around the world is diminishing because surveillance is declining,” Van Kerkhove informed reporters throughout an replace in Geneva. “That limits our ability to assess the known variants and subvariants but also our ability to track and identify new ones.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned there’s the “ever present risk of more dangerous variants emerging” because the virus continues to unfold and alter. Tedros stated “the pandemic is not over but the end is in sight,” contradicting President Joe Biden’s assertion earlier this week that the pandemic had ended.

“We have spent two and a half years in a long dark tunnel and we’re just beginning to glimpse the light at the end of that tunnel, but it’s still a long way off and the tunnel is still dark with many obstacles that could trip us up if we don’t take care,” Tedros stated.

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

Health authorities nonetheless aren’t in a position to precisely predict how massive Covid surges might be from season to season, Van Kerkhove stated. Some public well being specialists imagine the virus will finally behave related to the flu, the place there are manageable waves of an infection throughout the fall and winter months.

“We don’t yet have predictability with SARS-CoV-2 like we have other types of pathogens where we expect a seasonality. We may get there, but we’re not there that. That’s the message — we’re not there yet,” Van Kerkhove stated.

Though the long run is unsure, Tedros stated the world is in a “significantly better position” than at some other level throughout the pandemic. Two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants is vaccinated, together with three-quarters of well being care staff and older individuals, he stated.

Weekly Covid deaths have continued to decline dramatically throughout all areas of the world and are actually 10% of the pandemic’s peak in January 2021, in accordance to WHO information. More than 9,800 individuals died from Covid throughout the week ended Sept. 18, down 17% from the prior week.

“In most countries, restrictions have ended and life looks much like it did before the pandemic,” Tedros stated. “But 10,000 deaths a week is 10,000 too many when most of these deaths could be prevented.”

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