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WHO says ability to track COVID variants diminishes as surveillance wanes


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The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that the ability to track COVID-19 variants and subvariants around the world is diminishing due to declining surveillance.

“With decreasing surveillance, the number of tests decreases, the number of sequences performed and shared decreases. And that limits our ability to assess known variants and subvariants…but also our ability to track and identify new ones. “, said Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID Technical Officer at WHO. “So that’s why it’s really important that we maintain surveillance activities.”

Speaking at a press conference, Van Kerkhove told reporters that part of ending the pandemic was trying to reduce the spread of transmission.

“The more this virus circulates, the more opportunity it has to change. And that’s something we are deeply concerned about,” she said.

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In this photo illustration the World Health Organization (WHO) logo seen displayed on an Android mobile phone with COVID illustration in the background.
(Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

While omicron is dominant worldwide, the agency is currently tracking 200 coronavirus sublines.

Van Kerkhove said the WHO was working with member states to “adjust” the response to the virus, as the world is still at risk of future variants.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a launch ceremony for a multi-year partnership with Qatar to make the 2022 FIFA World Cup and mega-events healthy and safe athletes at WHO headquarters in Geneva on October 18, 2021.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a launch ceremony for a multi-year partnership with Qatar to make the 2022 FIFA World Cup and mega-events healthy and safe athletes at WHO headquarters in Geneva on October 18, 2021.
(Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

“We expect future variants to be more transmissible. We expect future variants to potentially have more immune evasion, which could make some of our countermeasures less effective than they currently are. But we don’t know if future variants will be more or less severe,” she said later.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that while the pandemic is not over, the end is “in sight”.

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“Yes, we are in a better position than ever. The number of weekly COVID-19 deaths continues to decline and is now only 10% of what it was at the peak in January 2021,” he said. declared.

Technical officer of the World Health Organization on the coronavirus pandemic, Maria van Kerkhove gestures during an interview with AFP in Geneva on October 13, 2020.

Technical officer of the World Health Organization on the coronavirus pandemic, Maria van Kerkhove gestures during an interview with AFP in Geneva on October 13, 2020.
(Photo by RICHARD JUILLIART/AFP via Getty Images)

“But 10,000 deaths a week is 10,000 too many, when most of those deaths could be avoided,” Tedros noted.

Van Kerkhove said that while “we’re not there yet”, the WHO is very optimistic.

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“The reason we have hope is because we have so many tools,” she continued. “We just need to make sure that all countries have access to them and that all countries have policies in place to use them most effectively.”

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