Covid pandemic not over, virus moving around easily: WHO warns against misinformation amid global surge
Washington, Mar 20: "After several weeks of declines, reported cases of COVID-19 are once again increasing globally, especially in parts of Asia", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus told journalists in Geneva.
In the past week, the agency has seen an 8 per cent increase in detection of COVID-19 cases, with more than 11 million positive test results.
"These increases are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg", Tedros explained, warning that when cases tick up, so do deaths.
He added that continued local outbreaks and surges are to be expected, particularly in areas where measures to prevent transmission have been lifted, but that there are 'unacceptably high' levels of mortality in many countries, especially where vaccination levels are low among susceptible populations.
"Each country is facing a different situation with different challenges, but the pandemic is not over", he reiterated.
WHO's Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove explained that a combination of factors is fuelling the increase of cases worldwide, beginning with a more transmissible variant.
"We still have Omicron which is transmitting at a very intense level around the world. We have sub-lineages of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2. BA.2 is more transmissible, and this is the most transmissible variant we have seen of the SARS-COV2 virus to date", she warned.
The COVID-19 Technical Lead informed that in the last 30 days of more than 400,000 sequences sampled, 99.9% are Omicron, and 75% correspond to the BA.2 variant.
"We do not see an increase in severity with BA.2. However, with huge numbers of cases you will see increase hospitalisations and we have seen this in country after country", Dr. Van Kerkhove highlighted.
Another factor influencing the increase of numbers is the lifting of public health and social measures.
"Lifting of the use of masks, lifting of physical distancing, lifting of restrictions limiting people's movement, this provides the virus an opportunity to spread", Dr. Van Kerkhove cautioned.
The expert also pointed out that there are 'huge amounts of misinformation' causing a lot of confusion among people.
"The misinformation that Omicron is mild, misinformation that the pandemic is over, misinformation that this is the last variant that we will have to deal with", she explained.