Global cases decline, but WHO monitors Omicron subvariant

The omicron surge appears to be slowing across much of the world, but a subvariant that scientists believe is even more contagious is on the rise, and a drop in testing has muddied the global picture, the World Health Organization said. health.

New cases worldwide fell 19% from February 7 to 13, compared to the previous week, according to the agency.

The WHO also said that the omicron subvariant, BA.2, appeared to be “steadily increasing” in prevalence and that BA.2 had now become dominant in several Asian countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Denmark was the first country to report that BA.2 had surpassed BA.1, the omicron version that first swept the world.

Also read: When will Covid-19 become endemic in India? The virologist explains

The scientists said there is no evidence that BA.2 is more deadly than BA.1, although BA.2 may slow omicron’s decline. Vaccines appear to be equally effective against BA.2 as against other forms of omicron.

The omicron wave has yet to peak in what the agency calls the Western Pacific region, which includes Oceania, Pacific islands and East Asian countries such as China and the United States. South Korea who recently celebrated the Lunar New Year, a holiday period that usually involves a large family. gatherings. Cases in the region increased by 19% last week, the WHO reported.

In the Pacific, two island nations that had no confirmed cases until recently are now grappling with the arrival of the virus. In Tonga, an outbreak began after ships brought aid to help the country recover from a volcanic eruption and tsunami in January. And the Cook Islands reported its first case last week.

The WHO said the number of cases was decreasing in other regions. But cases continue to rise in parts of Europe, including Slovakia, Latvia and Belarus. And in Russia, new cases have increased by 79% in the past two weeks, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

On Wednesday, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, warned that a drop in testing rates around the world means the number of reported global cases may not reflect the true spread of the virus.

Also read: ‘Acute phase’ of pandemic could end by mid-year, WHO says

“We have to be careful not to over-interpret this downward trend,” she said. She said the biggest concern was the rise in reported deaths from Covid-19 for the sixth consecutive week.

The WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes the Middle East, has reported the most deaths, and the Western Pacific region has reported the second, according to the WHO.

In the Americas, many countries have not acted quickly enough to slow the transmission of BA.1, WHO officials said on Wednesday, and they need to be better prepared for the next version of the coronavirus.

“This will not be the last variant, and the future of the pandemic is still extremely uncertain,” said Dr Carissa Etienne, director of the WHO Pan American Health Organization, adding that “a new variant could emerge at any time”.

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