WHO: Cases falling globally, but virulent Covid variant risk remains

In its Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response plan for 2022, WHO set out a number of key strategic adjustments that, if implemented rapidly and consistently at national, regional, and global levels, will enable the world to end the acute phase of the pandemic, it said

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, March 31, 2022, 10:39 AM IST
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WHO's Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response plan for 2022 | World Health Organisation

More than two years since the first SARS-CoV-2 infections were reported, the COVID-19 pandemic remains an acute global emergency.

The number of people killed by the coronavirus surged by more than 40% last week, likely due to changes in how COVID-19 deaths were reported across the Americas and by newly adjusted figures from India, according to a World Health Organization report released Wednesday.

In its latest weekly report on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said the number of new coronavirus cases fell everywhere, including in WHO’s Western Pacific region, where they had been rising since December.

About 10 million new COVID-19 infections and more than 45,000 deaths were reported worldwide over the past week, following a 23% drop in fatalities the week before.

The jump in reported deaths, up from 33,000 last week, was due mainly to an accounting change; WHO noted that countries including Chile and the United States altered how they define COVID-19 deaths.

In addition, more than 4,000 deaths from Maharashtra state in India that initially weren’t included among the COVID-19 death toll were added last week, according to WHO.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday laid out three possible paths that the Covid-19 pandemic might follow in 2022 -- with a new, more virulent variant the worst-case scenario.

The WHO said the most likely way forward was that the severity of disease caused by the virus would wane over time, due to greater public immunity.

But the UN health agency also said a more dangerous variant of concern than Omicron could be lurking round the corner.

The WHO released its updated Covid-19 Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan, with the organisation's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hoping it will be the last.

WHO has said repeatedly that COVID-19 case counts are likely a vast underestimate of the coronavirus’ prevalence. The agency cautioned countries in recent weeks against dropping their comprehensive testing and other surveillance measures, saying that doing so would cripple efforts to accurately track the spread of the virus.

The agency warned that less surveillance would particularly harm efforts to detect new COVID variants and undermine a potential response.

Numerous countries across Europe, North America and elsewhere recently lifted nearly all their COVID-19 protocols, relying on high levels of vaccination to prevent another infection spike even as the more infectious omicron subvariant BA.2 is causing an uptick in new cases.

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