The next Covid-19 variant will definitely be more contagious than omicron, but the real question is whether or not it will be more deadly World Health Organization officials pointed out. Further, issuing another warning regarding long COVID, they asserted that pre-Omicron, there was an estimate that one out of every 10 patients would suffer from lingering symptoms, however, it is yet to be known, how or whether new variants can change that count.
While addressing a Q&A session on Tuesday, WHO officials touched upon topics including next variants, long COVID, end of the pandemic etc. Read here.
Will the next variant be more virulent?
Answering this Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said, the next variant of concern will be more fit, i.e. it will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating. However, “The big question is whether or not future variants will be more or less severe.”
Speaking against theories that the virus will continue to mutate into milder strains, she added, “There is no guarantee of that. We hope that that is the case, but there is no guarantee of that and we can’t bank on it.”
The next iteration of Covid may also evade vaccine protections even more, making the existing vaccines even less effective, she pointed out.
When will COVID end?
This completely depends on us and how we behave.
Noting that COVID is not over yet, Kerkhove said, “You won’t have to wear a mask forever and you won’t have to physically distance forever. But for now, we need to keep doing this. We will get out of this, but we’re not quite there yet.”
What are the risks of long COVID?
Another reason we want to stop the spread of the virus is that COVID has long-term effects, Kerkhove said, “And we don’t yet fully understand post-COVID conditions or what is long COVID”
She further pointed out, that pre-Omicron there was an estimate that 1 in 10 patients suffers from long COVID. And we are yet to understand whether Omicron will change that.
“So, please do not willfully expose yourself to the virus.”
What one should do at an individual level?
At the individual level, people must know what their risks are to the exposure of the virus and take measures accordingly.
In these last two years, many people have become accustomed to thoughts like let me get the mask, let’s carry the hand gel, let’s wash my hands etc., she said.
Please continue to do these things as of now. These are little things that can make a difference.
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21 million new COVID cases reported last week
The UN health agency on Tuesday said that there were 21 million new coronavirus cases reported globally last week, the highest weekly number of COVID-19 cases recorded since the pandemic began. The number of deaths was largely unchanged, at more than 50,000.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic, issued late Tuesday, WHO said the number of new coronavirus infections rose by 5% and that the rate of increase appears to be slowing; only half of regions reported an increase in COVID-19.
It further added, the biggest increase in cases was seen in the Middle East, with a 39% rise, followed by a 36% jump in Southeast Asia. Deaths increased in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, but fell in other regions.
(With inputs from agencies)