As we step into the 3rd year of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) notified that it cannot be said that the acute phase of COVID is over and that is because even though some countries may have been able to end the emergency phase of this pandemic, we don’t see that in all countries worldwide.
In its weekly pandemic report released late Wednesday, the U.N. health agency said about 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, which respectively represent decreases of 12% and 25%. Though there is a downward trend, WHO notified it is due to the drop in the number of testing.
Regarding COVID situation worldwide, WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove said, “We live in an interconnected world. And so while some countries may have been able to end the emergency phase of this pandemic, we don’t see that in all countries worldwide. So we need to continue to fight this at a global level.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned during a press briefing this week that “the rising cases in more than 50 countries highlights the volatility of this virus.”
Tedros said COVID-19 variants, including mutated versions of the highly infectious omicron, are driving a resurgence of COVID-19 in several countries, including South Africa, which was the first to identify omicron in November.
He said relatively high rates of population immunity are preventing a spike in hospitalizations and deaths but cautioned that “this is not guaranteed for places where vaccination levels are low.” Only about 16% of people in poorer countries have been immunized against COVID-19.
WHO’s Africa office said Thursday that cases in South Africa have quadrupled in the last three weeks and COVID-19 deaths have doubled. WHO said that so far, hospitalizations were only about 20% of what was seen during the last infection wave in December.
The agency noted that the most concerning omicron subvariants are BA.4 and BA.5, due to their large number of mutations and uncertainty as to how they might affect immunity. COVID-19 cases in Namibia and Eswatini, which border South Africa, also reported 50% more cases in the past two weeks.