WHO says 'not there yet' on coronavirus

Saturday, 3 December 2022 (15:10 IST)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that as much as 90% of the world's population now has some resistance to COVID-19, while at the same time warning that diminishing vigilance could leave the door open for new variants to evolve.

"WHO estimates that at least 90% of the world's population now has some level of immunity to SARS-CoV-2, due to prior infection or vaccination," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

"We are much closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over — but we're not there yet. Gaps in surveillance, testing, sequencing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality."

Tedros warns of dangerous new variants

Tedros noted that last weekend marked one year since the WHO named omicron a so-called variant of concern. It has since swept the world and Tedros warned that at least 500 other highly transmissible omicron variants are currently in circulation.

He said despite some infections being less severe, new variants have shown they can evade built-up immunity.

With infections on the rise again in the UK and at record highs in China, the WHO is urging governments around the world to increase efforts to protect the most vulnerable, such as those over 60 or with underlying health conditions.

Last week, more than 8,500 people died as a result of COVID-19, which Tedros said, "is not acceptable three years into the pandemic, when we have so many tools to prevent infections and save lives."

The WHO says it has officially registered 6.6 million deaths from nearly 640 million cases since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2019. It notes, however, that this is a massive undercount that does not reflect the actual number of dead.

WHO welcomes China relaxing COVID-19 rules

China this week signaled that it may ease its harsh zero-COVID approach after a week of rare, widespread anti-government protests over what citizens see as extreme government coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking with European Union President Charles Michel on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted at change, claiming the fact that most infections in China were of the milder omicron variant, "opens the way for more openness of the restrictions than what we have already seen in some regions."

WHO Emergencies Director Michael Ryan said the body was, "pleased to learn that the Chinese authorities are adjusting their current strategies," striking a balance between control mechanisms and the lives of communities who have "suffered" under the country's strict zero-COVID policies.

Read on Webdunia

Related Article