WHO raises alarm as monkeypox spreads to Italy, Sweden

•Says world lowers guard at own peril

•Almost 1bn persons yet to be unvaccinated

By Sola Ogundipe

DESPITE the decline in reported cases of COVID-19  since the peak of the Omicron wave, the  World Health Organisation, WHO, has cautioned  that the pandemic  is most certainly not over, and that the world lowers its guard at its peril.

Speaking in Geneva at the opening of the at the opening of the 75th World Health Assembly, the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that “declining testing and sequencing means we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus, even as he lamented that almost 1 billion people in lower-income countries are yet to be  vaccinated.

In a report on the global situation, WHO Chief said the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have stabilized after weeks of decline since late March, while the overall number of weekly deaths dropped.

He noted that while there has been progress, with 60 per cent of the world’s population vaccinated, “it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere and that reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted.

According to Tedros, reported deaths are rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage, he said, and only 57 countries — almost all of them wealthy — have vaccinated 70 per cent of their people.

“While the world’s vaccine supply has improved, there is “insufficient political commitment to roll out vaccines” in some countries, gaps in “operational or financial capacity” in others. In all, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation. The pandemic will not magically disappear, but we can end it.

“This virus has surprised us at every turn — a storm that has torn through communities again and again, and we still can’t predict its path, or its intensity. We lower our guard at our peril.”

He said while cases may be declining worldwide, especially since the omicron wave peaked earlier this year, that does not mean the pandemic is over.

Tedros is expected to be appointed for a second five-year term this week at the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the WHO’s member countries.

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