WHO chief as Covid cases rise in 4 regions: ‘increasingly difficult to know…’
- North Korea has reported about 1.7 million Covid cases so far, days after it registered its first case.
A decline in genome sequencing and testing for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has made it “increasingly difficult” to know where the virus is and how it is mutating, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhenom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday as cases have risen over the last week in four out of six WHO regions.
“Over the last week, Covid-19 cases have risen in four out of the six WHO regions. Due to testing and sequencing reducing in many countries, it is increasingly difficult to know where the virus is and how it’s mutating,” the WHO director-general said.
He also expressed concern over the first reported Covid outbreak in North Korea, with more than 1.7 million suspected cases since late April. On Wednesday, North Korea reported 232,880 new cases of fever and six related deaths as the virus continues to spread rapidly in the unvaccinated population.
“WHO is deeply concerned at the risk of further spread of Covid-19 in the country particularly because the population is unvaccinated and many have underlying conditions putting them at risk of severe disease and death,” Tedros told a media briefing in Geneva.
He said the UN health agency has requested the secretive country to share data and information on the Covid outbreak, adding that a package of technical support and supplies, including diagnostic tests, essential medicines, and vaccines have also been offered.
Speaking on China’s ‘zero Covid policy’, the WHO chief described the extreme approach to containing the coronavirus as unsustainable because of the highly infectious nature of the omicron variant. He had made similar remarks about China’s Covid strategy drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.
“We know the virus better and we have better tools, including vaccines, so that’s why the handling of the virus should actually be different from what we used to do at the start of the pandemic,” Tedros said, adding that the virus had changed significantly since it was first identified in Wuhan in late 2019.
China on Tuesday reduced the length of mandatory quarantine for inbound travellers, in the biggest relaxation of entry restrictions after sticking to a rigid zero Covid policy throughout the pandemic. Read: Indian Navy has questions on China's new aircraft carrier Fujian Since then overseas arrivals have faced weeks of strict monitoring and costly quarantine in hotels and designated centres.
Two top OPEC oil producers, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, can barely increase oil production, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he had been told by the UAE's president. Read: France holds parliamentary election in vital test for Macron "And then he said (the) Saudis can increase by 150 (thousands barrels per day). Maybe a little bit more, but they don't have huge capacities before six months' time," Macron said.
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