WHO: Don’t act like the pandemic is ending
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general this week issued a word of caution to countries and people who have ceased practicing COVID-19 safety measures, saying the pandemic is far from over.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday expressed his concerns that the international response to the coronavirus pandemic was now lagging, pointing to an observed reduction in virus surveillance and the mismanaged deployment of vaccines and treatments.
“The virus is running freely and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity, in terms of both hospitalization for acute cases and the expanding number of people with post COVID-19 condition — often referred to as long COVID,” Tedros said.
He called on governments to reverse the recent reductions in surveillance, testing and virus sequencing.
The WHO leader noted how the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants — now dominant in many countries, including the U.S. — have recently driven waves of hospitalizations and deaths globally.
“New waves of the virus demonstrate again that the COVID-19 is nowhere near over,” Tedros said.
The spread of BA.5 has caused concerns among public health experts and authorities as the subvariant is believed to be more infectious and better at evading protection from vaccines and prior infections.
Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said Tuesday the new BA.5 subvariant that now makes up a majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is something to take seriously but shouldn’t “disrupt our lives.”
“It’s something that, A, we don’t panic on, B, we don’t let it disrupt our lives, but we take it seriously enough and utilize the tools that we have to mitigate,” he said at a White House briefing.
Currently available vaccines are believed to still protect against hospitalizations and deaths despite BA.5’s higher virulence, which Tedros noted.
“We’re in a much better position than at the beginning of the pandemic. Of course, there’s been a lot of progress. We have safe and effective tools that prevent infections, hospitalizations and deaths. However, we should not take them for granted,” said Tedros.
Globally, COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising since May. Roughly 500,000 cases are being reported daily around the world, while cases in the U.S. have plateaued at around 100,000 per day.