COVID-19 is nowhere near over, virus is running freely: WHO chief’s warning

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Photo : PTI

New Delhi: The World Health Organization‘s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday warned that fresh waves of COVID-19 infections indicate that the pandemic is “nowhere near over”, saying that the virus is “running freely”.

Expressing concern over the rise in the number of cases, he said that countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity.

“New waves of the virus demonstrate again that Covid-19 is nowhere near over. As the virus pushes at us, we must push back,” Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.

“The virus is running freely and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity, in terms of both hospitalisation for acute cases and the expanding number of people with post-COVID condition, often referred to as Long COVID,” he said.

He also urged countries to take tried-and-tested measures like “masking, improved ventilation and test and treat protocols” to deal with rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations.

The WHO said that COVID-19 remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, more than two years after it was first declared.

The WHO’s emergency committee on COVID-19 said in a statement that rising cases, ongoing viral evolution and pressure on health services in a number of countries meant that the situation was still an emergency — the highest alarm the global health body can sound.

COVID cases reported to WHO had increased by 30 percent in the last two weeks, largely driven by Omicron sub-variants BA.4, BA.5 and the relaxing public health and social measures, the panel said.

It also noted that increased population immunity, largely from vaccines, had seen a “decoupling” of cases from hospitalisations and deaths.

The committee emphasised the need to reduce transmission of the virus as the implications of a pandemic caused by a new respiratory virus would not be fully understood, the WHO said in the statement.

The committee also said that the trajectory of virus evolution and the characteristics of emerging variants remained “uncertain and unpredictable”, with the absence of measures to contain transmission.