The World Health Organization has issued a stern warning that new variants and a growing number of cases pose a real threat to public health.
New mutations of Covid-19 – the most contagious – are causing a dramatic increase in infections worldwide.
At a World Health Organization briefing, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the number of cases worldwide has risen by almost 30 percent in the past two weeks.
The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, first detected in South Africa last November, are largely responsible for the outbreaks in Europe and the US, where most of the new cases have been reported.
Dr Tedros said that a new BA.2.75 sublineage has also been found in countries such as India and WHO is following this development closely.
The world is facing many challenges two and a half years after the emergence of a new virus in Wuhan, China.
Testing for Covid-19 has fallen off a cliff around the world, and the WHO doesn’t have a clear picture of the true number of cases.
Dr. Tedros added that new oral antivirals are not reaching low- and middle-income countries.
And as the virus develops, the effectiveness of vaccines will decline.
Dr Tedros said that while vaccines are “still really effective in preventing serious illness and death,” the protection provided by vaccines will wane as new options become available.
“The decline in immunity highlights the importance of revaccination, especially for at-risk groups,” he said.
Dr. Tedros also warned about long-term covid, a generic term for a vaguely defined group of illnesses linked to the virus. He warned that the condition would be an additional burden on health systems, the economy at large and society at large.
He urged people to reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19 by using “proven public health measures” such as wearing masks in public and staying home if they are sick.
Cases are also on the rise in Australia.
NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant warned on Tuesday: “We are at the start of the third wave of Covid-19 Omicron and expect a significant rise in cases.”
She said the outbreak could peak in July or early August.
“This picture worries me and I urge the community to do a few things to protect themselves and each other,” she said, urging residents to make sure they are vaccinated.
“Isolate if you are sick and get tested, wear a mask indoors and around other people, and find out if antivirals are recommended for you,” Dr. Chant said.
“Therefore, please wear a mask indoors around other people outside your home, including on public transport, pharmacies and shops. Masks, while protecting themselves, can protect other people.”
Queensland is also facing a dangerous outbreak and Chief Medical Officer Dr John Gerrard has warned that a third wave will increase hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
“The good news is that getting vaccinated on time will protect you from severe illness and hospitalization, and if you get vaccinated, the illness you get with this virus is likely to be mild,” he said.
There are about 33,000 new infections in Australia every day.
Australia has over eight million cases, with the vast majority of people recovering. Around 10,100 people have died in Australia during the pandemic.
Worldwide, more than 550 million cases and more than 6.3 million deaths from respiratory diseases have been officially recorded. The true number is likely much higher.
State governments, which are largely responsible for public health measures, have so far resisted calls to reinstate mask mandates.
“I look back at the lockdown phase with concerns that we had to go down this path at the time,” said NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. said.
“I certainly would not want to see mandatory orders in effect again for a variety of reasons.
“How long will this be with us? Probably a very long time, so we need to find out what measures can keep us safe in a pandemic once every 100 years.”
Originally published as ‘We are at the start of the third wave’: Covid-19 case spike warning