Reduction in testing and sequencing hinders effective Covid-19 tracing

The reduction in testing and sequencing by countries is hindering effective tracing of Covid-19 at a time when global cases are again on an upward trajectory, World Health Organisation (WHO) said this week.

To date over 523 million cases including at least 6.27 million deaths have been recorded globally since the outbreak of the pandemic in late 2019.

In Zimbabwe, more than 250, 000 Covid19 infections and above 5, 000 fatalities have been registered to date.

Briefing the media on Covid-19 Tuesday, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, bemoaned the reduction in testing and sequencing.

Sequencing refers to analysing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases.

“Over the last week, Covid-19 cases have risen in four out of the six WHO regions,” said Ghebreyesus.

“Due to testing and sequencing reducing in many countries, it is increasingly difficult to know where the virus is and how it’s mutating. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has announced, through their state media, their first outbreak of Covid-19, with more than 1.4 million suspected cases since late April.”

Ghebreyesus said WHO was deeply concerned at the risk of further spread of Covid-19 in that country particularly because the population is unvaccinated and many have underlying conditions putting them at risk of severe disease and death.

“We are also concerned about Eritrea, another country that has not started vaccinating its populations,” bemoaned the WHO chief.

“WHO has requested that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea share data and information and WHO has offered to provide a package of technical support and supplies, including diagnostic tests, essential medicines, and vaccines ready to be deployed to the country.”

Ghebreyesus added that equity is one of the key principles behind the proposed pandemic preparedness accord.

“During this pandemic, we faced many challenges, including a lack of sharing information, a lack of sharing biological materials, and a lack of sharing technology amongst others,” he said.

“This hampered the response, cost lives, and revealed the limitations of global preparedness. For the world to respond quickly and more effectively to the next outbreak or pandemic, the world must prepare now.”

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