Neglecting COVID-19 this year is creating the perfect conditions for a deadly new variant to emerge, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s comments marked a change of tone just months after he said the world was never better placed to end the pandemic.
“We’re much closer to saying the emergency phase of the pandemic is over, but we’re not there yet,” Tedros said on Friday.
The global health agency estimates that approximately 90% of the world’s population now has some level of immunity to SARS-COV-2 due to a previous infection or vaccination.
“Gaps in testing … and vaccination continue to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality,” Tedros said.
COVID-19 infections are at record levels in China and have started to pick up in parts of Britain after months of declines.
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“Although COVID-19 and influenza may be mild infections for many, we must not forget that they can cause serious illness or even death for the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Mary Ramsay, director of public health programs at the Agency for UK health security, he said.
WHO has urged governments around the world to focus on reaching people at risk, such as people over the age of 60 and those with pre-existing conditions, for vaccination.
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