WHO warns the ability to identify new Covid variants is dwindling

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned that it was struggling to identify and track new Covid variants as governments halted testing and surveillance, threatening progress made in the fight against COVID-19. virus again.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical leader, said the virus was still circulating at “extremely intense levels” around the world. According to Van Kerkhove, WHO is “deeply concerned” that it is evolving at a time when there is no longer robust testing to help quickly identify new variants.

“Our ability to track variants and sub-variants around the world is dwindling because surveillance capacity is dwindling,” Van Kerkhove told reporters in an update in Geneva. “That limits our ability to evaluate known variants and subvariables, but also our ability to track and identify new ones.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned there is an “increasing risk of more dangerous variants emerging” as the virus continues to spread and mutate. Tedros says that “the pandemic is not over yet but the end is in sight”, in contrast to the President Joe Biden’s confirmed earlier this week that the pandemic is over.

“We have spent two and a half years in a long dark tunnel and we are only beginning to see light at the end of that tunnel, but it still has a long way to go and the tunnel is still dark with many obstacles. can go through said Tedros.

Van Kerkhove said the WHO is currently monitoring about 200 omicron sub-streams. The global health authority is closely monitoring omicrons BA.2.75, BF.7 and BA.4.6 among other secondary variables, she said. These variants are already starting to gain ground in countries like the United States, where omicron BA.5, the fastest-spreading variant, has dominated for months.

Health authorities have not yet been able to accurately predict how high Covid will spike from season to season, Van Kerkhove said. Some public health experts believe the virus will eventually behave similarly to the flu, where there are controllable waves of infection during the fall and winter months.

“We don’t have the predictive ability with SARS-CoV-2 yet, like we have other pathogens that we expect seasonally. We could get there, but we’re not there. That’s the information.” message – we don’t have it yet,” said Van Kerkhove.

Although the future is uncertain, Tedros said the world is in a “significantly better position” than at any other time during the pandemic. Two-thirds of the world’s population is vaccinated, he said, including three-quarters of healthcare workers and the elderly.

According to WHO data, the number of weekly deaths from Covid continues to decline significantly across all regions of the world and is now 10% from the peak of the pandemic in January 2021. More than 9,800 people have died from the virus. Covid deaths in the week ending September 18, down 17% from the previous week.

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

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