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New COVID variant could emerge amid drop in surveillance, vaccination, WHO warns – National

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Global health authorities are able to declare more emergencies than ever before. COVID-19 (new coronavirus infectious disease) But further reductions in surveillance and vaccination could open the door to new concerns, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

There are many tools available to protect individuals from serious illness and to track the virus and how it continues to mutate, but gaps in testing, sequencing and vaccination for COVID-19 have left it with “a worrying new Optimal conditions for variants to infect continue to be created. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing on Friday that it could cause significant mortality.

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“We are getting closer to the day when we can say that the pandemic emergency is over, but we are not there yet,” he said.

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Last week marked one year since the WHO declared Omicron Since then, the virus has continued to spread and mutate, with more than 500 Omicron substrains now circulating around the world, WHO said.

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And while Omicron tends to be less severe than previous variants, the virus’ incredible ability to mutate so that it can escape immunity from vaccination or infection means that COVID-19 remains a continuing threat. means, said Tedros.

It also means that detailed information about how the virus changes and behaves will continue to be important, he added.

Over the past few months, WHO officials have urged countries to step up their tracking, testing and sequencing of COVID-19 after surveillance measures have been significantly reduced as public health restrictions eased around the world. I have requested.

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The WHO also added a warning to weekly epidemiological reports on the global COVID-19 epidemic and number of cases, saying trends “must be interpreted with due regard to the limitations of the COVID-19 surveillance system.” pointing out.

“These (limitations) include differences in sequencing capacity and sampling strategies between countries, changes in sampling strategies over time, fewer tests being performed and sequences shared by countries, and delays in sequence submission. ,” said WHO in its weekly epidemiology update in November. 30.

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To monitor changes in COVID-19 and identify new variants that may be of concern, collecting data on how the virus moves within the population and conducting genome surveillance is essential. It’s essential, said infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID. -19 response.

But tracking down the subspecies has become difficult, she said, because of the diminishing means of tracking.

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“Recently, with less surveillance, less testing, and less sequencing, we have a limited amount of information about variants, which means we have less data to analyze.”

To underscore this, Van Kerkhov said on Friday that there were at least 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 reported to the WHO worldwide last week, a number that “significantly reduces the circulation of this virus around the world.” It’s an underestimate,” he said.

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“In some countries, there are wastewater estimates that suggest that number could be as high as five times,” she said.

“This virus is raging all over the world and we need to be able to absorb the circulating (and) COVID cases of COVID among all other circulating conditions, including influenza with RSV and other pathogens. there is.”

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Canada is one of many countries that has seen a significant drop in testing for COVID-19. This is because states and territories have adopted inspection policies that rely primarily on rapid testing to detect untracked viruses.

Laboratory, or PCR, tests that can not only test positive but also detect genetic alterations in the virus are currently only available in certain major populations in most parts of the country.

Without robust surveillance and sequencing data, knowledge of how COVID-19 changes and mutates cannot be adequately tracked, and the potential for new variants of concern and human Everyone is in the dark about how best to stay healthy and safe, said Van Kerkhove.

“The virus is still unpredictable,” she said at a WHO-sponsored Q&A on 14 November.

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“That’s why I think we need proper oversight so that people can see this every day. …We public health professionals and scientists need access to that information.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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