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As global case counts fall, WHO chief warns COVID isn’t finished

Ns News Online DeskNs News Online Desk: GENEVA-  The head of the World Health Organization insisted Wednesday that “COVID isn’t finished with us,” appealing for more support to fight the pandemic after his agency reported that new infections fell but virus deaths rose worldwide over the past week.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launching a new $23 billion campaign to fund WHO’s efforts to lead a fair rollout of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines around the world, cautioned that “diseases know no borders” and the highly-transmissible omicron variant has shown that “any feeling of safety can change in a moment.”

WHO’s weekly epidemiological report, released late Tuesday, showed that case counts fell 17% worldwide over the last week — including a 50% decline in the United States — while deaths globally rose 7%.

“Depending on where you live, it might feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over, or, it might feel like it is at its worst,” Tedros said. “But wherever you live, COVID isn’t finished with us.”

“We know this virus will continue to evolve, but we are not defenseless,” he added. “We have the tools to prevent this disease, test for it and to treat it.”

Omicron, which is more contagious than other variants but has generally brought less-severe disease, made up nearly 97% of all cases tallied by the international virus-tracking platform known as GISAID. Just over 3% were of the delta variant.

In all, WHO reported more than 19 million new COVID-19 cases and just under 68,000 new deaths from Jan 31 to Feb 6. Experts say the figures are believed to greatly underestimate the real toll from the pandemic.

Case counts fell in each of WHO’s six regions except its eastern Mediterranean zone, which reported a 36% jump, notably with increases in Afghanistan, Iran and Jordan.

In Europe, new infections fell 7% — led by substantial declines in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain — even as countries in Eastern Europe like Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia posted increases in daily infections. In the Americas, case counts fell 36%, with the United States — still the single most-affected country — reporting 1.87 million new cases, down 50% from the previous week.

Vaccines appeared to be most effective to prevent severe disease from omicron. The agency said booster doses increased estimates of vaccine effectiveness to over 75% for all vaccines for which data are available, though the rates declined after three to six months after injection.






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