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Alarming COVID-19 Trends Emerge Globally

As the world braces itself for the upcoming winter season in the northern hemisphere, the World Health Organization (WHO) has raised concerns regarding the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Recent developments include a surge in ICU admissions and hospitalizations across Europe, coupled with a spike in cases in the Middle East and Asia, as highlighted by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.

Despite these worrisome indicators, the WHO’s ability to assess the threat posed by new COVID-19 variants is severely constrained by the insufficient monitoring efforts of member countries, as Tedros revealed during a global media briefing held on Wednesday.

Tedros lamented, “Only 43 countries, representing less than a quarter of WHO member states, currently report COVID-19 cases to our organization, with merely 20 offering insights into global hospitalization rates.”

He further emphasized, “The escalating hospitalizations and fatalities underscore the enduring presence of COVID-19, necessitating our continued reliance on tools to combat its spread.”

Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, the lead for COVID-19 at the WHO, acknowledged the limited data available but expressed concern over rising hospitalizations in the Americas and Europe, particularly within the Southeast Asia region. She cautioned, “This trend is particularly troubling as colder months approach in some countries, leading to increased indoor gatherings where airborne viruses like COVID can thrive.”

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Van Kerkhove also disclosed that only 11 countries had shared information regarding the latest “variant under monitoring,” known as BA.2.86, even though it has been detected in 11 countries since late July. Additionally, she pointed out the existence of three other “variants of interest”: EG.5 (also referred to as Eris) and two sub-lineages of XBB, stemming from the original Omicron variant.

“Evidence suggests that EG.5 constitutes approximately 30% of the global sequences, yet it is not outcompeting other variants of interest or those currently in circulation,” she clarified.

Considering the complexity of variant behaviour across different countries and timeframes, Van Kerkhove stressed the importance of assessing transmissibility and potential immune escape but noted that current information remains limited.

Highlighting the effectiveness of global influenza monitoring systems, she mentioned their invaluable contribution to tracking SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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