As the World Health Organization prepares to decide whether COVID-19 remains a global emergency, the UN agency’s chief executive says key indicators of the pandemic are pointing in the wrong direction, including a number growing number of deaths.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday he was “very concerned” about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and the impact it continues to have in many countries.
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“In the past eight weeks, more than 170,000 people have died from COVID-19. This has just been reported because the true number of deaths is much higher,” he said.
“Although I am not ahead of the advice of the emergency committee, I remain very concerned about the situation in many countries and the increasing number of deaths.”
WHO data shows that in the 28 days between December 19, 2022 and January 15, the number of COVID deaths worldwide increased by 20% compared to the previous 28 days. Over 662 million confirmed cases and over 6.7 million deaths have been reported worldwide.
In Canada, the death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed the grim threshold of 50,000, the country’s public health agency confirmed on Monday.
Tedros warned that the numbers don’t tell the whole story, as the WHO has seen a “dramatic” drop in surveillance and genetic sequencing of the virus, leaving health experts in the dark when it comes to These are efforts to track existing variants and detect new ones.
The UN agency has been concerned for several months about this drop in surveillance of the virus, saying in December that it could open the door to a new worrying variant.
Accordingly, it added caveats to its weekly epidemiological reports on the global circulation of COVID-19 and the number of cases, noting that any trend “must be interpreted with due consideration of the limitations of COVID-19 surveillance systems. 19”.
The WHO Emergency Committee is due to meet on Friday to discuss whether the current pandemic situation still constitutes a global emergency, almost exactly three years after the day the WHO first declared COVID -19 as a public health emergency of international concern – the agency’s highest alert level. . The WHO would begin classifying the outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
While the world is in better shape than three years ago, the global response to the outbreak is “once again under strain”, Tedros said.
“Too few people, especially the elderly and health workers, are properly vaccinated. Too many people are behind on their boosters. For too many people, antivirals remain expensive and out of reach, and too many people are not getting the right care,” he said.
Healthcare systems around the world continue to battle the virus burden in addition to caring for patients with other illnesses, including flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) outbreaks occurring simultaneously in many countries, a he added.
During his Tuesday remarks, Tedros also expressed concern about the “torrent of pseudoscience and misinformation” circulating about COVID and the tools to fight it, such as vaccines.
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He says it “undermines confidence in safe and effective tools for COVID-19.”
“My message is clear – don’t underestimate this virus,” he said.
“It has surprised us and will continue to surprise us, and it will continue to kill unless we do more to get health tools to people in need and comprehensively fight misinformation.”
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, noted that individuals or the media raising questions and seeking to verify health and safety information about what is known to date about the virus and vaccines are not an example of misinformation or misinformation. .
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Robust dialogue about options and how governments and health agencies make decisions about the virus and its treatments is important and deserves transparency and public debate, Ryan said.
“Misinformation and misinformation are different…where information is used as a weapon to manipulate the way people draw conclusions,” he said.
“That’s what we’re fighting here. We are not fighting dialogue.
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