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WHO cautiously celebrates decrease in global Covid-19 deaths

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it welcomes with caution a decrease in global Covid-19 deaths reported last week.

During the week under review, just over 15 thousand deaths were reported to WHO – the lowest weekly total since March 2020.

Addressing a press conference yesterday, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said while they welcomed the decrease, they were treating it with caution.

“Globally, reported cases and deaths continue to decline, which is very encouraging and good news,” said Ghebreyesus.

“This is a very welcome trend, but it’s one that we must welcome with some caution.

As many countries reduce testing, WHO is receiving less and less information about transmission and sequencing. This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution. But this virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still killing.”

The WHO chief said the threat of a dangerous new variant remains very real although deaths are declining.

“We still don’t understand the long-term consequences of infection in those who survive,” he decried.

“When it comes to a deadly virus, ignorance is not bliss. WHO continues to call on all countries to maintain surveillance. This week is World Immunization Week – an opportunity to highlight the incredible power of vaccines, not just to save lives, but in the words of this year’s theme, to offer the opportunity of “A long life for all”.”

He was however quick to highlight that around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe disruptions to routine immunization programmes, putting millions of children’s lives at risk, and opening the door to fresh outbreaks of measles and polio.

“One of WHO’s priorities is supporting countries to conduct catch-up campaigns to protect as many children as possible, as fast as possible in partnership with Gavi,” he said.

“Almost 60 percent of the world’s population has now completed a primary course of vaccination, but only 11 percent of the population of low-income countries. Closing this gap remains essential to ending the pandemic as a global health emergency. And it’s not just vaccines.

Last Friday, WHO recommended the antiviral combination nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, also known as Paxlovid, for patients with mild or moderate Covid-19 that are at high risk of hospitalisation.

“This treatment helps prevent hospitalizations and is easy to administer,” explained Ghebreyesus.

“However, several challenges are limiting its impact. It is largely not available in the vast majority of low- and middle-income countries, and requires prompt and accurate testing before administration, within five days of symptom onset. This is compounded by a lack of price transparency in bilateral deals made by the producer.”

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