The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Friday, urged leaders to push back against the daunting new COVID-19 surges, with increased vaccination efforts and public health measures.
Ghebreyesus warned that with Delta variant was quickly becoming the dominant strain in many countries, saying: “we are in a very dangerous period of the pandemic’’
“In those countries with low COVID-19 vaccination coverage, terrible scenes of hospitals overflowing are again becoming the norm. But no country is out of the woods yet,” said Ghebreyesus, at his bi-weekly press conference.
The director-general explained that the Delta variant was ‘dangerous’ and continued to evolve and mutate, and thus requiring constant evaluation and careful adjustment of the public health response.
“Delta has been detected in at least 98 countries and is spreading quickly in countries with low and high vaccination coverage,” he warned.
In addition, the WHO chief explained that there were essentially two ways for countries to push back against the new COVID-19 surges.
“Public health and social measures like strong surveillance, strategic testing, early case detection, isolation and clinical care remain critical.
“As well as masking, physical distance, avoiding crowded places and keeping indoor areas well ventilated,” he said.
The second way, said the director-general, was through the global sharing of protective gear, oxygen, tests, treatments and vaccines.
“I have urged leaders across the world to work together to ensure that by this time next year, 70 per cent of all people in every country are vaccinated.
“This is the best way to slow the pandemic, save lives, drive a truly global economic recovery and prevent further dangerous variants from getting the upper hand.
“WHO is calling on leaders to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of people as soon as possible, in all countries, to ensure that health workers and those most at risk are protected.’’
According to him, ensuring this would effectively end the acute stage of the pandemic and save a significant number of lives.
“It’s a challenge but we know it’s possible because already three billion vaccines have been distributed.
“It is within the collective power of a few countries to step up and ensure that vaccines are shared, manufacturing is increased and that the funds are in places to purchase the tools needed.”
Answering journalists’ questions, WHO’s technical leader for COVID-19 response, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, reminded that the virus had been evolving since it first emerged.
“It is what viruses do. The variants of concern that we are tracking are currently four: Alpha, Beta, Gama and Delta.
“They will continue to evolve: there will be more mutations, there will be more variants detected, and some of those will be variants of concern,” she said.
The UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Kerkhove as saying that there were now ‘sub lineages’ of the Delta variant that experts were currently tracking and countries would do well to expand their genomic sequencing efforts.
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