The WHO chief warns against the conditions for more COVID-19 variants
The WHO chief warns against the conditions for more COVID-19 variants

The WHO chief warns against the conditions for more COVID-19 variants

At a briefing to the World Health Organization (WHO) board today, its director general warned that conditions remain ideal for new variants to emerge and that countries have the power to change the causes of the pandemic.

In other global COVID-19 developments, some countries reported record highs as protests against outbreak measures in other nations spurred violent protests over the weekend.

Completion of acute phase depends on vaccine access

The WHO Executive Board is meeting in Geneva this week to set the agenda for the World Health Assembly in May. Under his address to the group today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said that it is dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that the world has reached the playoffs of the pandemic.

He said, however, that it is possible to end the acute phase of the pandemic this year if countries use tools and strategies known to reduce cases, including vaccination, clinical management, increased testing and sequencing, use of targeted public health measures when it is necessary, and use of new solutions as they emerge.

Tedros said that while a comprehensive approach is needed, he highlighted bridging the vaccine access gap as a key step in ending the acute phase. Currently, 86 countries have not met the 2021 target of vaccinating 40% of their populations, and 85% of Africa’s population have not received a single dose. “How can that be acceptable to any of us?”

Omicron is deteriorating in some nations

In separate comments today marking the 2nd anniversary of Europe’s first COVID-19 case, the head of the WHO’s European Regional Office, Hans Henri Kluge, MD, MPH, said that Omicron is replacing Delta at an unprecedented rate, and although intensive care unit burden is lower for Omicron, overall admissions are still rising. He added that the Delta variant is still a factor in some countries.

He said Omicron offers hope for stabilization and normalization, but there are still big differences in vaccine access. “Too many people who need the vaccine remain unvaccinated. This helps drive transmission, prolongs the pandemic and increases the likelihood of new variants.”

Russia reported yesterday for the third day in a row record COVID-19 cases, and the country’s Ministry of Health said Omicron has been detected in 64 out of 89 regions. It expects the variant to become dominant, according to ABC News.

More global headlines

  • In Asia, Hong Kongs “Zero COVID” policies are under pressure, with cases at their highest level since July 2020 and health officials warning people to avoid gatherings in the run-up to the Lunar New Year holiday. In China ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics, Olympic officials announced today that some COVID-19 rules have been relaxed a bit for participants, including a eased threshold for testing positive and reduced days to define people as contacts, according to Reuterswho said that 177 of the 3,115 people who arrived at the Olympics have tested positive so far.
  • The New Zealand government announced a shift to an increased “red setting” COVID-19 response after a cluster of cases was discovered in a family traveling to Auckland for a wedding, according to Associated Press. The measures require meshes and joint boundaries. As a result, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she put her own wedding on hold.
  • Protests against COVID-19 measures became violent in some places over the weekend, including Brussels and Guadeloupe.
  • IN Pakistanwhere COVID-19 cases are at record highs daily, officials announced that only vaccinated people will be able to pray in mosques.
  • The global total today rose to 353,664,208 cases and 5,601,789 people have died from their infections, according to Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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