‘Go slow on easing COVID curbs’: WHO says it’s tracking Omicron sub-variant BA.2

World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday urged nations to go slow on relaxing COVID-related curbs as many countries are yet to witness Omicron-led COVID peaks. “It is too early to surrender or to declare victory against the virus,” the WHO chief said. Further sounding an alarm regarding COVID, he stressed that this virus is dangerous, and it continues to evolve before our very eye. Officials further notified that the UN health agency is currently tracking emerging variants, including the Omicron sub-lineage BA.2.

During an online briefing today, WHO officials Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Maria Van Kerkhove, Mike Ryan touched upon many topics including rising number of COVID-related fatalities, emerging variants and why COVID-induced restrictions should be eased slowly. Check the full transcript:  

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Omicron and its subvariant: The UN health agency chief pointed out that since Omicron was first spotted in southern Africa 10 weeks ago, nearly 90 million cases have been reported to the WHO — more than in all of 2020.

And while the new Covid variant is known to be milder, we are now starting to see a very worrying increase in deaths in most regions of the world, he said, adding, It is vital to keep striving to halt transmission of the virus.

“We can’t fight this virus if we don’t know what it’s doing.”

The WHO head stressed the need to continue tracking emerging variants, including the Omicron sub-lineage BA.2. “This virus will continue to evolve, which is why we call on countries to continue testing, surveillance and sequencing,” he said.

Lockdown and COVID curbs: As several countries have started relaxing COVID restrictions, WHO chief asserted, it is too early to surrender or to declare victory against the virus.

“We are not calling for any country to return to so-called lockdown,” Tedros said, adding though that “we are calling on all countries to protect their people using every tool in the toolkit, not vaccines alone.”

“We’re concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines and because of Omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible, and no longer necessary,” Tedros said.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, stressing that “more Covid-19 transmission means more deaths.”

Watch Video here: 

Maria Van Kerkhove

Increasing COVID death is concerning: Kerkhove, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist; COVID-19 Technical Lead at WHO, pointed out the increase in the number of COVID-related fatalities is quite concerning. Over the last week, 63,377 people lost their lives to COVID.

“This should not be happening when we have public health tools that can reduce the spread & tools (diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines) that can save lives now”

Many countries yet to attain Omicron peak: Kerkhove asserted countries should go slow on easing COVID curbs as many countries are yet to reach Omicron peak.

“We are urging caution because many countries have not gone through the peak of Omicron yet. Many countries have low levels of vaccination coverage with very vulnerable individuals within their populations,” Maria Van Kerkhove told an online briefing.

“And so now is not the time to lift everything all at once. We have always urged, always (be) very cautious, in applying interventions as well as lifting those interventions in a steady and in a slow way, piece by piece. Because this virus is is quite dynamic,” she added.

Mike Ryan

WHO’s emergencies chief Mike Ryan, addressing the same briefing, urged countries to chart their own path out of the pandemic and not blindly follow others in relaxing measures.

“I think it’s a transition phase for many countries, not every country in the same situation. Those countries who are making decisions to open up more broadly also need to be sure of capacity to reintroduce measures, with community acceptance, if needed. So as if we open the doors quickly, you better be very well able to close them very quickly as well.”

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