As reported cases and deaths of COVID-19 continue to decline, Omicron subvariants are driving an increase in the Americas and Africa, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. noting the disparity between the profits made and the salaries. available in the developing world.
Although weekly deaths are at their lowest since March 2020WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at the weekly briefing in Geneva that “these trends, while welcome, do not tell the whole story.”
South African scientists who identified Omicron late last year have now reported two other sub-variants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, as a reason for a peak in such cases.
While it’s too early to tell whether the subvariants can cause more severe disease than others linked to Omicron, early data suggests the best way to protect people is still vaccination, alongside public health measures. and social experiences.
“This is another sign that the pandemic is not done with us,” Tedros warned.
He reiterated that the best way to save lives, protect health systems and minimize cases of “long COVID” is to vaccinate at least 70% of the population of each country – and 100% of the groups most at risk. risk.
Although more shots have become available, a lack of political commitment, operational capacity issues, financial constraints, misinformation and disinformation are limiting demand for vaccines.
“We urge all countries to address these bottlenecks to ensure the protection of their populations,” the senior WHO official said.
“Testing and sequencing remain absolutely critical“, he continued, noting that the two subvariants were identified because “South Africa continues to do the vital genetic sequencing that many other countries have stopped”.
Tedros warned that many countries are blind to how the virus mutates – not knowing what awaits them.
And the low availability and high prices of effective antivirals continue to make them inaccessible to low- and middle-income countries.
“Coupled with low investment in early diagnosis, it is simply unacceptable that in the worst pandemic in a centuryinnovative treatments that can save lives are not reaching those who need them“, underlined the head of the WHO.
Play with fire
As “we play with a fire that continues to burn us,” he said that “manufacturers report record profits”.
The WHO supports a fair reward for innovation and as ACT Accelerator partners negotiate lower costs and increased availability, he stressed that “we cannot accept prices that make lifesaving treatments accessible to the wealthy. and beyond the reach of the poor”.
“It’s a moral fault”.
Tedros informed reporters that he would be traveling to Poland on Thursday for the International Donor Conference for Ukraine.
“The health problems in Ukraine are getting worse day by dayespecially in the east of the country,” said, noting that the WHO had now verified 186 attacks on health care in the countryside.
He highlighted the importance of the humanitarian corridors noting that WHO and its partners were able to receive and provide health care to dozens of civilians fleeing Mariupol.
He urged Russia to allow all remaining civilians to leave the destroyed port city and all other areas where they are “at great risk”.
Regarding the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, Tedros clarified that the climate crisis, soaring food prices and food shortages threaten to cause famine and further insecurity.
As the vast region experiences its worst drought in 40 years, an estimated 15 million people are severely food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and repeated attacks on scarce water resources in Burkina Faso deprive citizens access to the minimum amount of water they need. need just to survive.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the WHO is supporting vaccinations against an Ebola outbreak.
“WHO responds to a wide range of challenges around the world – not to mention our work outside of emergencies to strengthen health systems and promote the conditions in which people can live healthy lives,” said Tedros, recalling that “all this work costs money”.
Hand wash, no hand spin
On the eve of World Hand Hygiene Day and the International Day of the Midwife, Tedros told reporters that the WHO is launching its first global report on infection prevention and control.
“The simple act of hand washing can save lives, especially in healthcare settings, where vulnerable patients may be at risk of infection.”
He said an astonishing 70% of infections can be prevented if good hand hygiene and other “cost effective practices are followed”.
He said the simple act of washing your hands regularly “can be the difference between life and death, for you and for others”.