WHO appeals for vigilance amid rising Covid-19 cases and detection of new variantIn a statement, the global health body asked countries in the South-East Asia Region to strengthen public health measures and vaccination coverage.
The World Health Organization has appealed to countries in the South-East Asia Region to scale up surveillance, strengthen public health and social measures, and enhance vaccination coverage, in view of the surge in Covid-19 cases globally, and detection of a new variant of concern, Omicron.
Issuing a statement on Sunday, the WHO regional office for South-East Asia said that countries must enhance surveillance and sequencing while assessing the risk of importation through international travel based on updated information on circulating variants and response capacities, and take measures accordingly.
“Though Covid-19 cases have been declining in most countries of our region, the surge in cases elsewhere in the world and confirmation of a new Variant of Concern, is a reminder of the persisting risk and the need for us to continue to do our best to protect against the virus and prevent its spread. At no cost should we let our guards down,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Urging the countries to continue comprehensive and tailored public health and social measures to prevent transmission, Singh said that the earlier the protective measures are implemented, the less restrictive they would need to be in order to be effective.
“The more Covid-19 circulates, the more opportunities the virus will have to change and mutate, and the pandemic will last longer,” said Singh.
The organisation, in its statement, pointed out the need to take precautions to prevent becoming infected and to infect someone else who may get severely affected by the virus even after getting vaccinated.
“As of today 31 percent of the region’s population is fully vaccinated, 21 percent partially vaccinated while nearly 48 percent, or about a billion people are yet to receive even a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,” Singh said, adding that they continue to be at risk of contracting severe disease due to the virus and spreading it further.
WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it Omicron. Researchers are working to understand how transmissible or virulent this variant is, and how it will impact diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
“We must not forget that the pandemic is far from over. As societies open up, we should not get complacent. Festivities and celebrations must include all precautionary measures. Crowds and large gatherings must be avoided. The current situation warrants further stepping up efforts on all fronts,” said Singh.