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Pandemic remains a global health emergency, says World Health Organization

With a significant increase in known coronavirus cases across the world, a continued evolution of the omicron, and increased pressure on public health systems, the World Health Organization on Tuesday declared the pandemic to remain a health emergency. public.

The agency, which is part of the United Nations, first declared coronavirus outbreaks a “public health emergency of international concern” on January 30, 2020, nearly 2½ years ago.

The decision to maintain the global state of emergency was based on several factors, including that “surveillance has declined significantly – including testing and sequencing – making it increasingly difficult to assess the impact of variations on transmission, disease characteristics and the effectiveness of countermeasures,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“The virus is circulating freely and countries are not effectively managing the burden of disease within their capacity, in terms of hospitalization for acute cases and the growing number of people with post-COVID-19 illness – often called COVID long,” he told a press conference in Geneva.

As of Monday, an average of more than 930,000 new confirmed virus cases are being reported worldwide each day, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. That’s a 37% increase over the past two weeks. During the same period, there have been an average of more than 1,700 deaths, an increase of 18%, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

The reported cases are seen as a significant undercount of the true infection rate, as noted by the WHO, as testing and tracking have been reduced. Immunity is declining in wealthy countries that have had access to vaccines for about a year and a half, although vaccines remain highly protective against the worst outcomes.

Additionally, countries like the United States have thrown away doses of the vaccine, while even two-thirds of the world’s population is not fully vaccinated, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project.

These vaccines, although valuable, have become obsolete. U.S. regulators pledged last week to update 2020 vaccine recipes for this fall’s booster campaign with new formulations meant to defend against ultra-contagious omicron subvariants.

These fast-spreading subvariants, known as BA.4 and BA.5, are driving a summer surge of the coronavirus in Europe, health officials say. BA.5 is dominant among new cases in the United States, where rising test positivity rates suggest many places across the country are experiencing new outbreaks of infections.

By the end of the week on Saturday, BA.5 accounted for 65% of new cases in the United States and BA.4 for 16%, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, the two subvariants accounted for about 52% of new cases just two weeks ago.

“The reporting of BA.5 is increasing in terms of reporting and has increased significantly in the last four weeks alone,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 technical lead. “We expect this trend to continue around the world, but we will continue to assess it as we move forward. We need more data to be able to do this – to review transmissibility and escape to gravity.

The WHO emergency committee met virtually on Friday to assess the evolution of the pandemic and decided that it continued to meet the criteria for a health emergency.

“There is a major disconnect in the perception of COVID-19 risks between scientific communities, political leaders and the general public,” Tedros said Tuesday. “COVID-19 is far from over.”