- In nine weeks, over 8 crore cases of Omicron have been reported to WHO
- Learning to live with COVID cannot mean we give this virus a free ride: WHO
- WHO Chief called to boost testing and sequencing rates globally
New Delhi: “On average last week, 100 cases were reported every three seconds, and somebody lost their life to COVID-19 every 12 seconds”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday (January 24) at the 150th session of the Executive Board. It has been almost two years since the WHO Chief declared a public health emergency of international concern – the highest level of alarm under international law – over the spread of COVID-19 on January 30, 2020. At the time, there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths reported outside China. Two years down the line, the world has reported over 35 crore cases of COVID-19 and lost over 56 lakh lives. The WHO Chief believes these numbers are an underestimate.
Since Omicron was first identified just nine weeks ago, more than 80 million (eight crore) cases have been reported to WHO – more than were reported in the whole of 2020. So far, the explosion in cases has not been matched by a surge in deaths, although deaths are increasing in all regions, especially in Africa, the region with the least access to vaccines, said Dr Ghebreyesus.
Talking about the future course of the pandemic, Dr Ghebreyesus said, we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future and we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases, which will provide a platform for preparedness for future pandemics.
But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50 thousand deaths a week, from a preventable and treatable disease, he said.
The WHO Chief called it “dangerous” to assume that Omicron will be the last variant of COVID-19 or that we are in the endgame of the pandemic. On the contrary, he said,
Globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.
However, he also noted that if countries use all the strategies and tools provided by the WHO in a comprehensive way,
We can end the acute phase of the pandemic this year – we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year.
WHO Chief Lists Steps Needed To End COVID-19 Pandemic In 2022
1. Vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of every country, with a focus on the most at-risk groups;
2. Reduce mortality through strong clinical management, beginning with primary health care, and equitable access to diagnostics, oxygen and antivirals at the point of care;
3. Boost testing and sequencing rates globally to track the virus closely, and monitor the emergence of new variants;
4. Calibrate the use of public health and social measures when needed;
5. Restore and sustain essential health services;
6. Learning critical lessons and defining new solutions now, not waiting until the pandemic is over.
The WHO has been calling for vaccine equity ever since the vaccination programme began in the world. WHO Chief wanted every country to vaccinate 40 per cent of their population by the end of December 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022. However, 86 member states across all regions have not been able to reach last year’s target of vaccinating 40 per cent of their populations – and 34 Member States, most of them in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region, have not been able to vaccinate even 10 per cent of their populations.
85 per cent of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine. We simply cannot end the emergency phase of the pandemic unless we bridge this gap. But we can bridge it, and we are making progress, said WHO Chief.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.