WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE

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16-Mar-2022 00:05:03
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said reported cases of COVID-19 are once again increasing globally “after several weeks of declines” and stressed that the “pandemic is not over.” WHO

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STORY: WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE
TRT: 5:03
SOURCE: WHO
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LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 16 MARCH 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

FILE – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

1. Wide shot, WHO headquarters exterior

16 MARCH 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2. Wide shot, press room
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“After several weeks of declines, reported cases of COVID-19 are once again increasing globally, especially in parts of Asia. These increases are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg. And we know that when cases increase, so do deaths."
4. Wide shot, press room
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Continued local outbreaks and surges are to be expected, particularly in areas where measures to prevent transmission have been lifted. However, there are unacceptably high levels of mortality in many countries, especially where vaccination levels are low among susceptible populations. Each country is facing a different situation with different challenges, but the pandemic is not over. I repeat, the pandemic is not over. We call on all countries to remain vigilant. Continue to vaccinate, test, sequence, provide early care for patients, and apply common-sense public health measures to protect health workers and the public. We continue to call on everyone to be vaccinated, where vaccines are available.”
6. Wide shot, press room
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
“So, it's a combination of factors that is resulting in this increase. First is we still have Omicron, which is transmitting at a very intense level around the world. We have sub-lineages of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2. BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 even. And this is the most transmissible variant we have seen of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to date. In the context of lifting of public health and social measures, lifting of the use of masks, lifting of physical distancing, lifting of restrictions, of limiting people's movement, this will provide the virus an opportunity to spread. We have also incomplete vaccination coverage in many parts of the world, and in particular among people who are at risk of developing severe disease. And we have huge amounts of misinformation that's out there. The misinformation that Omicron is mild; misinformation that the pandemic is over; misinformation that this is the last variant that we will have to deal with. This is really causing a lot of confusion that's out there.”
8. Wide shot, press room
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
“The likelihood is that this virus will echo around the world. It'll be high in some parts, and sometimes it'll move and be higher again. It'll move to another area where immunity is waning, and the virus will pick up pockets of susceptibility and will survive in those pockets for months and months until another pocket of susceptibility opens up. This is how viruses work. They establish themselves within a community, and they will move quickly to the next community that is unprotected. Well, what can happen is if communities around a virus are well protected, the virus can sustain itself even in small communities. It can stay there. It can rest there and then wait until susceptibility grows in other communities. We've seen this, I'm looking at Bruce, in polio and other places. So, I do think it's very important that we recognise that the transmission of this disease will occur. It will wax and it will wane. It has not settled down into a purely seasonal or predictable pattern yet.”
10. Wide shot, press room
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Of the sequences that are available, about 75 percent are BA.2 and 25 percent of those are BA.1. All of these are Omicron, and all of these are variants of concern. So, we are seeing an increase in the proportion of BA.2 that is detected. However, the amount of testing that is happening worldwide, as we have mentioned previously, is dropping substantially. So, our ability to track this virus, our ability to track BA.2 is compromised because testing is reduced, and you can't sequence those who you don't test."
12. Wide shot, press room
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
“We need a very strong surveillance system around the world for COVID-19, despite all of the challenges that we are facing. We still need to maintain testing. We still need to maintain robust sequencing and making sure that we have good geographic representation of the sequences that are shared, so that we can really track this virus in real time."
14. Wide shot, press room

STORYLINE:

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said reported cases of COVID-19 are once again increasing globally “after several weeks of declines” and stressed that the “pandemic is not over.”

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva today (16 Mar), Dr Tedros said the increase was occurring “despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg. And we know that when cases increase, so do deaths."

The WHO chief said continued local outbreaks and surges are to be expected, “particularly in areas where measures to prevent transmission have been lifted.” He underscored, however, that there are “unacceptably high levels of mortality in many countries, especially where vaccination levels are low among susceptible populations.” He added, “Each country is facing a different situation with different challenges, but the pandemic is not over. I repeat, the pandemic is not over. We call on all countries to remain vigilant. Continue to vaccinate, test, sequence, provide early care for patients, and apply common-sense public health measures to protect health workers and the public. We continue to call on everyone to be vaccinated, where vaccines are available.”

WHO’s COVID-19 Technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said the increase is a result of a combination of factors. “First is we still have Omicron, which is transmitting at a very intense level around the world. We have sub-lineages of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2. BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 even. And this is the most transmissible variant we have seen of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to date. In the context of lifting of public health and social measures, lifting of the use of masks, lifting of physical distancing, lifting of restrictions, of limiting people's movement, this will provide the virus an opportunity to spread. We have also incomplete vaccination coverage in many parts of the world, and in particular among people who are at risk of developing severe disease. And we have huge amounts of misinformation that's out there. The misinformation that Omicron is mild; misinformation that the pandemic is over; misinformation that this is the last variant that we will have to deal with. This is really causing a lot of confusion that's out there.”

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the likelihood is that “this virus will echo around the world.” He explained, “It'll be high in some parts, and sometimes it'll move and be higher again. It'll move to another area where immunity is waning, and the virus will pick up pockets of susceptibility and will survive in those pockets for months and months until another pocket of susceptibility opens up. This is how viruses work. They establish themselves within a community, and they will move quickly to the next community that is unprotected. Well, what can happen is if communities around a virus are well protected, the virus can sustain itself even in small communities. It can stay there. It can rest there and then wait until susceptibility grows in other communities. We've seen this, I'm looking at Bruce, in polio and other places. So, I do think it's very important that we recognise that the transmission of this disease will occur. It will wax and it will wane. It has not settled down into a purely seasonal or predictable pattern yet.”

Dr Van Kerkhove said of the sequences that are available, “about 75 percent are BA.2 and 25 percent of those are BA.1.” She added, “All of these are Omicron, and all of these are variants of concern. So, we are seeing an increase in the proportion of BA.2 that is detected. However, the amount of testing that is happening worldwide, as we have mentioned previously, is dropping substantially. So, our ability to track this virus, our ability to track BA.2 is compromised because testing is reduced, and you can't sequence those who you don't test."

WHO’s COVID-19 Technical lead stressed the need for a very strong surveillance system around the world for the virus, despite all of the challenges. She said, “We still need to maintain testing. We still need to maintain robust sequencing and making sure that we have good geographic representation of the sequences that are shared, so that we can really track this virus in real time."
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