Why are Covid-19 cases increasing? WHO gives 3 reasons, and a warning | World News - Hindustan Times

Why are Covid-19 cases increasing? WHO gives 3 reasons, and a warning

Mar 19, 2022 11:15 AM IST

Covid-19 variants: BA.2 Omicron variant is the most transmissible of the SARS-COV2 virus to date," the WHO has said.

Covid-19 cases have increased around the world - particularly in South East Asia, where China, South Korea, and Hong Kong have all reported worrying numbers. Hong Kong on Friday crossed the one million cases-mark and South Korea on Thursday reported a staggering 621,328 new Covid cases. China was forced to lockdown major cities to contain the virus and the mainland Saturday reported its first Covid-related deaths in a year. Cases have also increased in Europe. Estimates by AFP show a staggering 35 per cent weekly increase in Covid in France, and 42 per cent in the United Kingdom and Italy each.

A worker wearing protective gear looks on as people wait to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a residential compound in Shanghai.(AFP)
A worker wearing protective gear looks on as people wait to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a residential compound in Shanghai.(AFP)

The World Health Organization has said these spikes were 'the tip of the iceberg' and outlined three reasons (primarily) for this surge in cases.

What the WHO said:

Spike is being driven partly by the more transmissible omicron:

A 'stealth' sub-variant of the omicron strain has also been detected and experts believe it could also be responsible for the surge in cases in China. 

The emergence of the sub-variant, designated BA.2, is a matter of concern because it is missing key mutations in the spike protein that are considered necessary for rapid PCR tests to identify the infection.

The WHO has said it is still too early to draw conclusions about BA.2, which seems to produce symptoms no more severe than the parent strain.

Another point of concern is a mixed omicron strain - 'stealth' + normal. First detected in Israel - two cases at the Ben Gurion Airport - it has been identified as BA.1 + BA.2. The point of origin is still unknown but BA.2 is believed to be even more transmissible than omicron.

"Omicron is transmitting at a very intense level... We have sub-lineages of BA.1 and BA.2. BA.2 is more transmissible and this is the most transmissible variant we have seen of the SARS-COV2 virus to date," Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's Covid technical lead, said.

Lifting of restrictions and public health measures:

At the height of the pandemic countries locked down. Public gatherings were banned, shops and restaurants closed, and people told to stay home.

As cases declined and vaccination levels increased governments - desperate to revive economies - began re-opening. This is another reason for the re-emergence of Covid cases and the growth of variants, the WHO indicated.

The health body has urged people to follow basic protocols - wear face masks in public, avoid unnecessary contact with large gatherings, and practice proper hygiene by regularly disinfecting hands and frequently touched surfaces.

READ: Covid-19 surge - What WHO said, where are cases increasing, and why

Misinformation regarding vaccines, virus spread:

The WHO has said massive amounts of fake news being spread, intentionally or otherwise, about vaccines has hampered recovery efforts.

The WHO has also said that false reports about the spread of the virus - reports suggesting the pandemic will end after omicron - are also a problem. 

"In the last four weeks... the amount of misinformation seems to be getting worse..." Dr von Kerkhove said Tuesday.

Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO's executive director of the Health Emergencies Programme, clarified the virus has not 'settled' into a predictable pattern.

"The idea 'we are through with it' in the northern hemisphere and have to wait till next winter... we need to be very vigilant and cautious with this," he said.

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