As case numbers drop, WHO chief warns ‘COVID is not over’

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization insisted on Wednesday that “COVID is not finished with us,” calling for more support to fight the pandemic after his agency reported that the number of cases and deaths had dropped worldwide over the past week.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launching a new $23 billion campaign to fund WHO’s efforts to lead an equitable rollout of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines around the world, warned that “diseases know no borders” and the highly transmissible omicron variant showed that “any sense of security can change in an instant.”

The WHO’s weekly epidemiological report, released on Tuesday evening, showed that the number of cases fell by 17% worldwide in the past week, including a 50% drop in the United States, while deaths in the world had decreased by 7%.

“Depending on where you live, you may feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over, or it’s at its worst,” Tedros said. “But wherever you live, COVID isn’t done with us.”

“We know this virus will continue to evolve, but we are not helpless,” he added. “We have the tools to prevent this disease, test it and treat it.”

Omicron, which is more contagious than other variants but has generally caused less severe disease, accounted for almost 97% of all cases counted by the international virus tracking platform known as GISAID. Just over 3% were of the delta variant.

In total, the WHO reported more than 19 million new cases of COVID-19 and just under 68,000 new deaths from January 31 to February 6. Experts say the numbers would grossly underestimate the true toll.

The number of cases fell in each of the six WHO regions except its Eastern Mediterranean area, which reported a 36% increase, including with increases in Afghanistan, Iran and Jordan.

In Europe, the number of cases fell by 7% – led by substantial declines in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain – even as Eastern European countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia have recorded increases in daily infections. In the Americas, the number of cases fell by 36%, with the United States – still the worst affected country – reporting 1.87 million new cases, down 50% from the previous week.

Vaccines appeared to be the most effective in preventing serious illnesses caused by omicron. The agency said booster doses raised estimates of vaccine effectiveness to more than 75% for all vaccines for which data is available, although rates declined after three to six months after the injection.

The WHO, bringing together leaders like South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre along with health ministers, launched a plea on Wednesday for new funding for its ACT-Accelerator program to provide diagnostics , COVID-19 therapies and vaccines to people around the world.

“If you want to guarantee vaccinations for everyone to end this pandemic, we must first inject fairness into the system,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. the price.”

Ramaphosa said rich countries administered 14 times more doses of life-saving vaccines and conducted 80 times more tests than low-income countries. In Africa, he said, only 8% of people are fully immunized. As many wealthy countries roll out a third or even a fourth booster dose, he noted that many vulnerable health workers and elderly people in Africa “remain unprotected”.

“The end of this pandemic is in sight, but only if we act together for fairness and solidarity,” he said.

The call comes as many wealthy Western countries – major donors to the WHO – eased restrictions to tackle the pandemic after COVID-19 cases began to decline.

“Let’s be honest. It’s not clear that leaders in the North – if you put it that way – will respond” to support global efforts to fight COVID-19, Gahr Støre said. But he pushed for “advocacy” to show leaders that “it is really in their interest to choose to stay engaged and to be engaged.

“If we have some kind of short-term sleepwalking on your national omicron challenge, at the next turn you might be very surprised,” he said, addressing comments to wealthy country officials.


This story removes an incorrect reference to new cases falling in Germany.


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