WHO urges countries to bring back mask rules

Australia is seeing a significant jump in cases and hospitalizations as new variants of Omicron become available.

New spikes in Covid infections show the pandemic is far from over, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said, warning that the virus is free.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was concerned that the number of cases is skyrocketing, putting additional strain on health systems and workers.

The number of Covid cases reported by the WHO has increased by 30% in the last two weeks due to subvariants of the Omicron strain and the lifting of control measures.

New waves of the virus demonstrate once again that Covid-19 is far from over. As the virus weighs on us, we must fight back,” he insisted.

He told a press conference that as transmission increases, governments should also implement proven measures such as wearing masks and improving ventilation.

Australia is seeing a significant jump in cases and hospitalizations as new variants of Omicron could bypass the protection offered by emerging vaccines.

Some health experts are calling on state governments to reintroduce mask-wearing rules to combat the spread.

“Sub-variants of Omicron, like BA. 4 and BA. 5 continue to cause waves of cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the world,” Mr Tedros said.

“Surveillance has been greatly reduced, including testing and sequencing, making it difficult to assess the effect of variants on transmission, disease characteristics, and the effectiveness of countermeasures.”

In addition, tests, treatments and vaccines are not used effectively.

“The virus is spreading freely and countries are not effectively managing the burden of the disease to the best of their ability,” he said, both in terms of hospitalization of acute cases and the increase in the number of people with long-term covid.

“Insecure and Unpredictable”

The WHO Emergency Committee on Covid-19 met via videoconference Friday and determined that the pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern, the highest alert the WHO can issue.

WHO director of emergencies Michael Ryan told the meeting that recent changes in testing policy are hindering case detection and monitoring the evolution of the virus.

The committee stressed the need to reduce transmission as the consequences of a pandemic caused by a new respiratory virus will not be fully understood, the WHO said in a statement on Monday.

The group expressed concern about the sharp decline in testing, which has led to a reduction in surveillance and genome sequencing.

“This hinders the assessment of currently circulating and emerging variants of the virus,” the WHO said, reinforcing a failure to interpret transmission trends.

The committee said the virus’ evolutionary trajectory and the characteristics of emerging variants remain “uncertain and unpredictable.”

It states that the absence of measures to reduce transmission increases the likelihood of the emergence of “new, more adapted variants with varying degrees of virulence, transmissibility and immune evasion potential.”

Booster boost

In the meantime, the WHO European office has recommended a second booster dose of the Covid vaccine for the elderly and vulnerable groups.

Covid cases have risen sharply since the end of May in much of Europe. The call follows a recommendation by the EU health and medicine agencies on Monday for a second booster for people over 60.

Over the past week, the number of cases of coronavirus infection in Moscow has increased by 57 percent, according to the capital’s health authorities.

“We recommend that you wear a mask in public because the new sub-options of Omicron BA. 4 and BA. 5 spread faster from person to person, ”wrote the social services of Moscow in Telegram.

And hundreds of thousands of people found themselves cooped up in a small Chinese town after just one case of Covid-19 was discovered, as Beijing’s strict virus-tolerance strategy showed no signs of easing.

The Wugang Steel Center in Henan Province announced a three-day “close control”.

None of the city’s 320,000 residents are allowed to leave their homes until Thursday afternoon. Local authorities were supposed to deliver the essentials.

China is the latest major economy committed to a zero covid policy, quelling new outbreaks with sudden lockdowns, forced quarantines and burdensome travel restrictions despite growing population fatigue and damage to the economy.

Originally published as WHO urges countries to bring back mask rules as Covid ‘spreads free’