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“We are running out of ways to say this," Dr Tedros

No complacency, Omicron spreads to 57 countries

Will cost lives, must scale up surveillance, testing and sequencing

WHO Director General Dr Tedros said If countries wait until their hospitals start to fill up, it’s too late. Don’t wait. Act now.

By B N KUMAR

MUMBAI, Dec 9 (The CONNECT) -With a stern warning that “any complacency now will cost lives”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing.

“If countries wait until their hospitals start to fill up, it’s too late,” WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said addressing the global media virtually last night (IST). “Don’t wait. Act now,” he said.

Dr Tedros said: “We are running out of ways to say this, but we will keep saying it: all of us – every government and every individual – must use all the tools we have, right now.”

All governments should reassess and revise their national plans, based on the current situation and their national capacities, and they should accelerate vaccine coverage in the most at-risk populations, in all countries, he said.

Dr Tedros called for intensifying efforts to drive transmission down, and keep it down, with a tailored mix of public health measures. “Scale up surveillance, testing and sequencing, and share samples with the international community,” he said.

“The Omicron variant has now been reported in 57 countries, and we expect that number to continue growing,” he said.

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Many of those who don’t die could be left battling long COVID, or post-COVID condition, a disease with debilitating,

lingering symptoms that we are only beginning to understand - Dr Tedros

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On Omicron, he specifically said, the large mutations of Omicron suggest it could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic.

In South Africa, the number of Omicron cases is increasing quickly. However, Omicron was detected when transmission of Delta was very low, so it had little competition,

“We are now starting to see a consistent picture of rapid increase in transmission, although for now the exact rate of increase relative to other variants remains difficult to quantify,” he said.

Building capacity across Africa is a key priority for WHO and the next week’s International Conference on Public Health in Africa, hosted by the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, is significant.

The meet will bring together researchers from across the continent to discuss some of the most pressing scientific questions about COVID-19, he said.

Even though the world still need answers to some crucial questions, “we are not defenceless against Omicron, or Delta”, he said and pointed out that the steps countries take today, and in the coming days and weeks will determine how Omicron unfolds.”

New data are emerging every day, but scientists need time to complete studies and interpret the results, Dr Tedros said and observed: “We must be careful about drawing firm conclusions until we have a more complete picture.”

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