WHO DG worried over rising cases of COVID-19

Tedros Ghebreyesus WHO Director-general
Tedros Ghebreyesus WHO Director-general

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General has expressed worry over the increase in cases of COVID-19 in some regions after six consecutive weeks of decline.

Ghebreyesus who said this at a biweekly press briefing in Geneva expressed the development as unacceptable

In his speech posted on the WHO website, he said four of the agency’s six regions reported a rise in numbers, with Africa and the Western Pacific excluded.

“Reported cases increased in four of WHO’s six regions: the Americas, Europe, South East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean

“This is disappointing, but not surprising.

“Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard.”

“We’re working to better understand these increases in transmission.

“Vaccines will help to save lives, but if countries rely solely on vaccines, they are making a mistake,’’ he said.

He, however, underscored the importance of basic public health measures such as testing, contact tracing, wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

According to him, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire began vaccinating health care workers on Monday, becoming the first countries to benefit from a global mechanism for ensuring vaccine equity.

“Through the COVAX Facility, WHO and our partners are working to ensure every country can begin vaccination within the first 100 days of the year.

“COVAX will deliver 11 million doses to countries this week. By the end of May, some 240 million doses will be allocated to 142 participating countries,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s Chief Scientist at the briefing, pointed to “encouraging” signs as the world continues to gear up for what is the largest vaccine deployment in history.

“We’ve seen early data from countries where vaccination campaigns started months ago, the impact that this is having on reducing hospitalisations, reducing deaths, particularly in the older age groups, amongst the vulnerable.

“We’ve even seen very encouraging data in reduction in infections among health care workers who have received the vaccine,” she said.

“So, these are still early days, but the signs are encouraging; the safety profile is encouraging.

“About 250 million doses have been given worldwide, and so far, there have been no major safety signals, so that is reassuring as well,” she said.

WHO explained that some countries have received COVAX vaccines early due to several factors such as the level of government preparedness, but logistical challenges in distributing vaccines, which include labelling, packaging and shipping, can also affect deployment.

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