Health

World is ‘moving further away’ from end of COVID-19 pandemic: WHO official

A top scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the world is shifting further away from the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, owing to factors like viral variants, social mixing, the flouting of public health measures and vaccine inequities.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist and WHO COVID-19 technical lead, noted an 11.5% increase in global cases over the last week, with a 1% increase in deaths. Europe saw a 21% uptick in infections last week, while the Western Pacific experienced a nearly 30% increase, for instance. Though data reflects a slight dip in the African region, Kerkhove warned Africa is experiencing a high level of cases and an approximate 60% increase in deaths.

The highly transmissible Delta variant is the latest of four such viral variants of concern under surveillance. The variant, detected in at least 111 countries, has also been blamed for COVID-19 cases rising across the U.S. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday warned that the outbreak in the U.S. is becoming "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" because nearly all hospital admissions and deaths are among those who hadn’t been immunized.

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Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist and WHO COVID-19 technical lead, noted an 11.5% increase in global cases over the last week, with a 1% increase in deaths. (Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS)

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"In the context of virus variants, increased social mobility, social mixing, inappropriate use of public health and social measures and inequitable vaccine distribution, we’re in a very dangerous situation," Kerkhove said. "It’s becoming more and more challenging and we’re moving further away from the end of this pandemic than we should be at this point in time."

The comments follow the eighth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee last week, which noted "governments are making increasingly divergent policy decisions that address narrow national needs which inhibit a harmonized approach to the global response," per a WHO release.

"The Committee noted that, despite national, regional, and global efforts, the pandemic is nowhere near finished," adding that the current state of the pandemic still needs "a coordinated international response."

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Nearly a quarter of the global population, or 24.7%, has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with over three billion doses administered, the WHO reported as of July 13. Nearly 30 million doses are administered worldwide daily, and 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, figures show.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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