WHO says ability to track COVID variants declines 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 declining due to declining surveillance.

“As surveillance is declining, the number of tests is decreasing, the number of sequences being run and shared is decreasing. And that limits our ability to assess the known variants and subvariants…but also our ability to track new ones.” and identify,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical leader for COVID. “So that’s why it’s so important that we monitor.”

During a media briefing, Van Kerkhove told reporters that part of ending the pandemic is trying to reduce the spread of transmission.

“The more this virus circulates, the more chances it has to change. And this is something we are very concerned about,” she said.

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In this photo illustration, the World Health Organization (WHO) logo is displayed on an Android mobile phone with a 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 sublines of the coronavirus.

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

“We expect that future variants will be more transmissible. We expect that future variants may have more immune escape, so some of our countermeasures may not be as effective as they are now. But we don’t know if future variants will be more or less.” seriously,” she said later.

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

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“Yes, we are in a better position than we have ever been. Weekly COVID-19 deaths continue to fall and are now only 10% of what they were at their peak in January 2021,” he stated.

“But 10,000 deaths a week is 10,000 too many, when most of these deaths could have been prevented,” Tedros noted.

Van Kerkhove said that while “we are not there yet”, the WHO is very hopeful.

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“The reason we’re hopeful 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 the policies in place to use them most effectively.”

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