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WHO expert on hurdle in tracking new variants, reducing risk of long Covid


The World Health Organization has been facing hurdles in tracking known and detecting new coronavirus variants amid reduced surveillance, testing and sequencing globally, a top expert has said days after WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that “living with Covid” does not mean “living with mounting deaths”.

Two years into the pandemic, nearly 15,000 deaths are still being reported globally each week. “15,000 mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, friends… people we love. I know we are tired, but when did this become acceptable?” asked Dr Maria Van Kerkhove on Twitter.

As of August 14, the world health body had registered 587 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 6.4 million deaths globally, as per the latest health bulletin. In her Twitter thread, Dr Kerkhove highlighted that the world – as the data of the last four weeks was collected – saw a 15 per cent spike in new cases and a 35 per cent surge in deaths.

“We expect cases to continue to occur given the limited use of public health and social measures, but COVID-19 hospitalisations, deaths, and long Covid can be minimised. Efforts need to be made to strengthen the use of life saving interventions. We can do this and live our lives,” the infectious disease epidemiologist said in one of the posts.

While Omicron BA.5 remains the dominant circulating variant of concern, the expert warned that “there will be more variants with such intense circulation”. “This virus does not yet have a seasonality or act predictably. Future variants will be more transmissible, may have further immune escape but we do not know if they will be more or less severe,” she said, urging for heightened testing and surveillance.

“Lives can be saved now with early testing, the right clinical care & treatments and vaccination administered by trained, protected & respected work force. Vaccination amongst those most at risk in all countries is not as high as it should be. #VaccinEquity is not just a hashtag,” Dr Kerkhove underscored.

The risk of long Covid can be reduced with simple measures, she added, stressing that, “COVID-19 vaccines are working incredibly well at preventing severe disease. Get vaccinated and get all recommended doses when it’s your turn. Governments need to focus on reaching at missed risk people.”

The WHO chief earlier this week insisted that the world must not let its guards down. “We’re all tired of this virus, and tired of the pandemic. But the virus is not tired of us,” he said at a briefing.

With colder weather approaching in the northern hemisphere, and people spending more time indoors, he furher highlighted, “ the risks for more intense transmission and hospitalization will only increase in the coming months – not only for COVID-19, but for other diseases including influenza.”






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