A sharp drop in Covid-19 tests has left the world blind to the virus’s continuing rampage and its potentially dangerous mutations, the Director of the World Health Organization has warned.
Addressing a press conference yesterday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that when it comes to a deadly virus, ignorance is not bliss.
“As many countries reduce testing, WHO is receiving less and less information about transmission and sequencing. This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution.
Tedros said that reported Covid-19 cases and deaths had been dropping dramatically.
“Last week, just over 15,000 deaths were reported to WHO – the lowest weekly total since March 2020,” Tedros said.
“This virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it,” Tedros said. “It is still spreading, it is still changing, and it is still killing. Although deaths are declining, we still don’t understand the long-term consequences of infection in those who survive,” he added.
He also cautioned that the threat of a dangerous new variant remains very real.
While saying this was “a very welcome trend”, he warned that the declining numbers could also be a result of significant cuts in testing for the virus.
William Rodriguez, who heads the global diagnostics alliance FIND, also decried that many governments in recent months simply stopped looking for Covid cases. He pointed out that in the past four months, amid surging Covid cases from the Omicron variant, “testing rates have plummeted by 70% to 90% worldwide”.
“We have an unprecedented ability to know what is happening and yet today, because testing has been the first casualty of a global decision to let down our guard, we’re becoming blind to what is happening with this virus,” Rodriguez said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has officially caused more than 6 million deaths since the virus first surfaced in China in late 2019, but the true toll is believed to be at least three times that high.
While many countries have been removing measures and trying to move back to a semblance of normality, WHO stressed that the pandemic is still not over.