WHO Chief Warns of Rising Infections From New COVID-19 Wave

TThe World Health Organization called on governments and healthcare systems to prevent COVID-19 transmission, as an epidemic of new infections is sweeping across Europe and America.

The Omicron strain’s sub-variants are increasing the number of cases and contributing to more fatalities, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director General said Tuesday at a Geneva briefing. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s head, suggested that protocols such as mask-wearing be revived to prevent the spread.

“New waves of the virus demonstrate that COVID-19 is nowhere near over,” Tedros said, adding that he is “concerned about a rising trend of deaths.”

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Europe is the centre of an exciting new wave of cases, driven by the BA.4 Omicron and BA.5 Omicron Sub-variants. People attend large gatherings to resume travel after two years of being close to their home.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 2.1million people in England tested positive for COVID in the last week of June. This is one-in-25. Even if someone has had COVID before, they can still be infected. However, vaccinations are effective at protecting against severe illness.

WHO fears that, even though cases are increasing again, the WHO’s surveillance system for the virus and any new variants of it is declining.

Tedros said that a WHO committee reiterated that COVID-19 remains a public health emergency of international concern — the way the global health organization classifies a pandemic.

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Noting the concern expressed by many governments about the BA.5 sublineage and the anecdotal evidence of re-infection potential, the WHO stated that no evidence has been found that BA.5 is more severe than Omicron variants before them. They also said that approved vaccines are effective.

Still, “the virus is spreading at a very intense level at a global level,” even as surveillance, including testing and sequencing to detect and identify strains, is declining, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Technical Lead Officer for COVID-19.

Earlier Tuesday, the WHO’s regional director for Europe recommended that all vulnerable adults and their close contacts receive a second vaccine booster dose.

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