Covid-19 scare: ‘Very concerned’, says WHO chief as Omicron strain BF.7 wreaks havoc in China

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday (December 21, 2022) said that the agency is “very concerned” about rising reports of severe Covid-19 disease in China. At a press briefing, he warned that China’s lagging vaccination rate could result in large numbers of vulnerable people getting infected. He also said that the UN agency needs more information on Covid-19 severity in China, particularly regarding hospital and intensive care unit admissions, “in order to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground.”

According to health officials, Chinese cities are currently hit by highly transmissible Omicron strains, mainly BA.5.2 and BF.7, which are spreading like wildfire.

“WHO is very concerned over the evolving situation in China, with increasing reports of severe disease,” the WHO Director-General said.

“In order to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground, WHO needs more detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and requirements for ICU support. WHO is supporting China to focus its efforts on vaccinating people at the highest risk across the country, and we continue to offer our support for clinical care and protecting its health system,” Tedros added.

The WHO head said that since the peak at the end of January, the number of weekly reported Covid-19 deaths has dropped by almost 90%.

“Certainly, we are in a much better place with the pandemic than we were a year ago, when we were in the early stages of the Omicron wave, with rapidly increasing cases and deaths,” he said.

However, there are still too many uncertainties and gaps for us to say the coronavirus pandemic is over, Tedros added.

“Gaps in surveillance, testing and sequencing mean we do not understand well enough how the virus is changing; Gaps in vaccination mean that millions of people – especially health workers and older people – remain at high-risk of severe disease and death; Gaps in treatment mean people are dying needlessly; Gaps in health systems leave them unable to cope with surges in patients with COVID-19, flu and other diseases; Gaps in our understanding of post-COVID-19 condition mean we do not understand how best to treat people suffering with the long-term consequences of infection; And gaps in our understanding of how this pandemic began compromise our ability to prevent future pandemics,” he stated/

The WHO chief said that “we continue to call on China” to share the data and conduct the studies we have requested, and which we continue to request.

“As I have said many times before, all hypotheses about the origins of this pandemic remain on the table,” he added.

Some health experts have warned that the unchecked spread of Covid-19 in China could spur the emergence of new variants, which might unravel the progress made globally to contain the pandemic.

(With agency inputs)

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