In response to a question from UN News, WHO said it has contacted North Korean authorities but has yet to receive an official report from the country’s health ministry.
Edwin Salvador, WHO Representative to the country, also known as North Korea, said that the United Nations agency supported the country in developing a national preparedness and response plan for COVID-19.
State media say a Omicron variant has been discovered in the capital Pyongyang.
Together with partners – including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and GAVI, the vaccine alliance – WHO has assisted North Korea in developing a plan to deploy a COVID-19 vaccine.
The scheme has been reviewed and approved by a multi-partner body at the regional level, helping isolated countries receive COVID-19 vaccinations through the UN’s equitable vaccine distribution initiative. top. COVAX.
WHO remains committed to working with the national authorities of the DPRK by providing them with the necessary information on the COVID-19 vaccine available through COVAX.
COVID soars in South Africa
Meanwhile, as winter in the region approaches, southern Africa is facing Accelerate COVID-19 for the third week in a row, breaking a two-month decline in the overall number of infections across the continent.
Recorded sub-zone 46,271 cases last week, marking a 32% increase from the previous week, largely due to a spike in South Africawhere weekly cases have quadrupled in the past 21 days.
“This increase in cases is an early warning sign that we are watching closely,” said Abdou Salam Gueye, WHO Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response, Regional Office for Africa. in an online press conference.
“Now is the time for countries to step up their preparedness and ensure that they can have effective responses in the event of a new wave of the pandemic.”
Sweeping the South
Despite the increase in cases, hospitalization rates in South Africa remain low, with inpatients testing positive for COVID at around 20% from its late-December peak.
However, in the past three weeks, there have been 376 deaths recorded – twice as many as in the previous three weeks.
In Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, where the latest wave was first detected, both hospital admissions and inpatient deaths increased by 90 to 100 percent in the past two weeks.
“Given the experience gained over the past two years, we must do all that is necessary to limit the ill effects of a new pandemic by stepping up vaccinations and measures to detect and prevent transmission. the spread of the virus as well as the treatment of patients”. Dr. Gueye said.
Between comfortable public health and social measuresthe current increase is being driven by the Omicron variant.
Since the beginning of April, South Africa has recorded 1,369 cases of Omicron BA.2 sub-variant, 703 cases of BA.4 sub-variant and 222 cases of BA.5 sub-variant.
Image IMF / James Oatway
However, BA.4 and BA.5 are still of most interest because they contain the greatest number of mutations, and it is still unclear how they affect immunity.
Eswatini and Namibia are also seeing an increase in cases, both now reporting 50% more in the past two weeks than they did two weeks ago.
For the week ending May 8, Africa records 52,878 COVID-19 cases – up 38% from last week.
“To defeat this pandemic, we must remain vigilant. It is a harsh reality that complacency comes at a heavy price,” the WHO official said.
The death toll in Europe crosses the two million mark
At the same time, WHO European Region confirmed that the death toll there has reached two million – just a fraction of the total number of deaths directly and indirectly related to COVID-19.
Despite the decline, cases in the region are still too high, the WHO office said, reminding that SARS-CoV-2 remains a killer virus, especially for unvaccinated people. and clinically vulnerable.
However, WHO still insists that with decisive steps on many fronts, both current and long-term, the acute phase of the pandemic will be over.
These measures include continuing to protect the most vulnerable; monitor the virus and its spread; keep health systems ready for future pandemic threats; and address long-term impacts, such as the looming prospect of millions of people with post-COVID, or ‘long COVID’ conditions.
Remembering the loss
To mark the milestone, WHO provided powerful testimony from the bereaved.
“I cannot put into words how much the loss of my father has affected my life and my family,” said Safiah Ngah, her father, a doctor, who has battled COVID-19, said.
“It feels like the foundation of our lives has just been ripped apart.”