New Covid-19 variant behind the increase in global cases

A new Covid-19 variant, BA.2.75, closely linked to Omicron, is behind the recent increase in global cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

Reported cases of COVID-19 increased by nearly 30% over the past two weeks, according to the global health authority.

In his opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on Covid-19 and other issues, Thursday, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said four out of six of their sub-regions saw cases increase two weeks back.

“In Europe and America, BA.4 and BA.5 are driving waves,” said Ghebreyesus.

“A new sub-lineage of Omicron called BA.2.75 has also been detected, which we’re following closely.”

He said compounding the challenge were a number of factors including a reduction in testing in many countries

“This obscures the true picture of an evolving virus and the real burden of Covid-19 disease globally,” he said.

“It also means that treatments are not given early enough to prevent serious illness and death. Second, new treatments, especially promising new oral antivirals, are still not reaching low- and low-middle income countries, depriving whole populations that need them. Third, as the virus evolves, vaccine protection – while still really effective at preventing serious disease and death – does wane.”

The WHO chief said decreasing immunity underscores the importance of boosters, especially for the most at-risk.

“Fourth, each wave of the virus leaves more people with a post-Covid condition, often referred to as long-Covid,” he said.

“Health systems are strained, and economies and societies are being disrupted.

Essential steps to take include: One, vaccinate and boost those at most risk. This includes older people, people with chronic illnesses, the immunocompromised and health workers. Many of these groups remain unprotected in too many countries. Two, make new oral antivirals and other treatments available to all.”

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