- Globally, there has been an 8% increase in cases detected in the last week
- BA.2 is even more transmissible than BA.1: Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO
- Our ability to track BA.2 is compromised because of reduced testing: WHO
New Delhi: The world has been battling with the COVID-19 pandemic for over two years now. And with that, it is also dealing with misinformation around the Novel Coronavirus. While sharing an update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday (March 19), Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, raised concern over ‘huge amounts of misinformation’. This comes at a time when the world saw an eight per cent increase in COVID-19 cases detected last week, with more than 11 million reported to WHO. This is despite a significant reduction in testing occurring worldwide, said Dr Kerkhove.
Talking about huge amounts of misinformation “causing a lot of confusion”, Dr Kerkhove said,
We have huge amounts of misinformation that’s out there. The misinformation that Omicron is mild. Misinformation that the pandemic is over. Misinformation that this is the last variant that we will have to deal with.
We have huge amounts of misinformation that’s out there. The misinformation that Omicron is mild. Misinformation that the pandemic is over. Misinformation that this is the last variant that we will have to deal with. This is really causing a lot of confusion @mvankerkhove pic.twitter.com/Ou7vuiV1GD
— Cleavon MD ???? ???? ???? (@Cleavon_MD) March 19, 2022
Further talking about the rise in COVID-19 cases around the world, Dr Kerkhove said there are a number of factors behind it like the transmission of the Omicron variant.
We still have omicron which is transmitting at a very intense level around the world. We have sub-lineages of omicron BA.1 and BA.2. BA.2 is even more transmissible than BA.1. And this is the most transmissible variant we have seen of the SARS-Cov-2 virus to date.
In the context of the lifting of public health and social measures, lifting of the use of masks, physical distancing, restrictions, limiting people’s movement, this will provide the virus an opportunity to spread, she said.
The Spread Of Omicron Variant And The Rise In COVID-19 Cases
In the last 30 days, of more than four lakh samples sequenced, 99.9 per cent of sequences are of the Omicron variant. Among those around 75 per cent are of BA.2, informed Dr Kerkhove.
99.9% of sequences provided in the last 30 days are #Omicron. Among those ~75% are BA.2 & 25% BA.1. All of these are variants of concern. However, our ability to track Omicron is compromised because testing is reduced. You can’t sequence those who you do not test! @mvankerkhove pic.twitter.com/7o1KthIQ4c
— Cleavon MD ???? ???? ???? (@Cleavon_MD) March 18, 2022
We are seeing an increase in the proportion of BA.2 that is detected. However, the amount of testing that is happening worldwide is dropping substantially. So, our ability to track this virus, our ability to track BA.2 is compromised because testing is reduced. And you can’t sequence those who you don’t test. We need a very strong survelliance system around the world for COVID-19, despite all of the challenges that we are facing, said Dr Kerkhove.
The WHO expert emphasised on continuous testing, robust sequencing and ensuring good geographic representation of the sequences that are shared so as to track the virus in real-time.
Ms Kerkhove said that Omicron is less severe than the Delta variant but, BA.2 appears to be the most transmissible variant so far. She added,
We do not see changes in the severity of BA.2 compared to BA.1 at population levels. However, with huge numbers of cases, you will see an increase in hospitalisations and that in turn has translated into increased deaths.
We do not see changes in severity of BA.2 compared to BA.1 at population levels. However, w/huge numbers of cases, you will see an increase in hospitalizations & that in turn has translated into increased deaths… primarily in people not vaxxed or partially vaxxed @mvankerkhove pic.twitter.com/xsOehCZQhU
— Cleavon MD ???? ???? ???? (@Cleavon_MD) March 19, 2022
As per WHO, the deaths are primarily occurring in people who are not vaccinated or people who have only had one dose of vaccine. Reiterating the fact that vaccines save lives and are saving even during COVID-19, Dr Kerkhove said,
COVID-19 vaccines remain incredibly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against Omicron.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via 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, that 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.