In the last one month, global deaths reported from Covid-19 have increased 35 per cent, with the last week alone seeing 15,000 deaths, said the World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cautioning that “the virus is not tired of us.”
“There is a lot of talk about learning to live with this virus. But we cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week. We cannot live with mounting hospitalizations and deaths. We cannot live with inequitable access to vaccines and other tools,”he said. Learning to live with Covid-19, he said, “does not mean we pretend it’s not there. It means we use the tools we have to protect ourselves, and protect others.”
And while “we’re all tired of this virus, and tired of the pandemic. But the virus is not tired of us,” said Dr Tedros, briefing the media on the spread of Covid-19 and Monkeypox globally. While Omicron remained the dominant variant, with the BA.5 sub-variant representing more than 90 per cent of sequences shared in the last month, he pointed out, the number of sequences shared per week had fallen by 90 per cent since the beginning of this year. The number of countries sharing sequences too has dropped by 75 per cent, he said, making it so much harder to understand how the virus might be changing.
Protect human rights and dignity
On the monkeypox outbreak, Dr Tedros said, more than 35,000 cases had been reported to the WHO, from 92 countries and territories, with 12 deaths. Almost 7,500 cases were reported last week, a 20 per cent increase over the previous week, which was also 20 per cent more than the week before.
“Almost all cases are being reported from Europe and the Americas, and almost all cases continue to be reported among men who have sex with men, underscoring the importance for all countries to design and deliver services and information tailored to these communities that protect health, human rights and dignity,” he said.
And while vaccines may play an important part in controlling the outbreak, he expressed concern that monkeypox vaccine supplies may reflect inequities similar to that witnessed with Covid-19 vaccines. WHO is in touch with manufacturers of vaccines, and countries and organizations who are willing to share doses, he added.
Countries must remain focussed on being ready for monkeypox, and to stop transmission using effective public health tools, including enhanced disease surveillance, careful contact tracing, tailored risk communication and community engagement, and risk reduction measures, he said.
Last week, the WHO had said that the two known clades of monkeypox virus would be renamed using Roman numerals. The clade formerly known as the Congo Basin or Central African clade will now be referred to as clade I, while the West African clade will be called clade II. Work on renaming the disease and the virus is ongoing, he added.