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Covid Deaths Again On Rise, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan Says Be Prepared For Waves

Even as Covid cases and even deaths are again on the rise globally, the world must be prepared for such Covid-19 waves, World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said.

According to Swaminathan, all new Covid variants in the future will be more transmissible and capable of evading immunity that can result in increased illness and hospitalisations.

“We need to be prepared for these #Covid19 waves- each new #variant will be more transmissible & immune evasive- higher numbers infected will translate into greater hospitalisations & sickness,” she wrote on Twitter.

She urged countries to “have a data driven plan to quickly respond to changing situations”.

Swaminathan was responding to a tweet from Philip Schellekens, a senior Advisor at the World Bank Group, who stated that the world is witnessing a “global U-turn in Covid-19 mortality. Following months of decline, it has started to rise again”.

Schellekens attributed the rise to properties of BA.5., relaxed attitudes towards infection control, and three-fourth of the world not being up-to-date on vaccination.

He said that the US, France, Italy, Germany and Japan are the drivers of the global surge among high-income countries, while Brazil, an upper-middle-income country, is leading in the developing world.

The US and Brazil are currently the main contributors to global mortality. In the US, the new Omicron variants have pushed up hospitalisations and deaths in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the WHO’s weekly review of the Covid-19 pandemic showed that in the last two weeks, Covid cases surged 30 per cent, driven largely by the hugely infectious omicron relatives, BA.4 and BA.5.

The two Omicron sub-variants have shown a worrisome ability to re-infect people previously vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid.

The biggest increases in Covid-19 cases were seen in the Western Pacific and the Middle East, where they jumped by more than a quarter. Deaths spiked by 78 per cent in the Middle East and by 23 per cent in Southeast Asia, while dropping elsewhere or remaining stable, the WHO report said.

Earlier this week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic still qualifies as a global emergency and he was “concerned” about the recent spike.

“The virus is running freely, and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden,” he said during a press briefing. “New waves of the virus demonstrate again that Covid-19 is nowhere near over.”

“I am concerned that cases of Covid-19 continue to rise – putting further pressure on stretched health systems and health workers – and deaths are unacceptably high,” Ghebreyesus said.

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