WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE

WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE
23-Mar-2022 00:05:16
Briefing reporters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “The global increase in COVID-19 cases continues, driven by large outbreaks in Asia and a fresh wave in Europe,” adding “We all want to move on from the pandemic. But no matter how much we wish it away, this pandemic is not over.” WHO

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STORY: WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE
TRT: 5:16
SOURCE: WHO
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LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 23 MARCH 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
SHOTLIST:
FILE – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

1. Wide shot, WHO headquarters, exterior

23 MARCH 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2. Wide shot, press room
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“The global increase in COVID-19 cases continues, driven by large outbreaks in Asia and a fresh wave in Europe. Several countries are now seeing their highest death rates since the beginning of the pandemic. This reflects the speed with which Omicron spreads and the heightened risk of death for those who are not vaccinated, especially older people. We all want to move on from the pandemic. But no matter how much we wish it away, this pandemic is not over. Until we reach high vaccination coverage in all countries, we will continue to face the risk of infections surging and new variants emerging that evade vaccines."
4. Wide shot, press room
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
"WHO’s target remains to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year, with priority given to health workers, older people, and other at-risk groups. Achieving that target is essential to save lives, prevent the risk of long COVID, protect health systems and increase population immunity. Other tools, including testing, sequencing, and contact tracing, also remain essential, and it’s vital that countries don’t abandon the capacities they have built over the past two years."
6. Wide shot, press room
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO:
"Omicron is sweeping the globe. It's the latest variant of concern and of the latest information that we have in terms of the sequences that are available, about 86% of the sequences that are available from the last four weeks are this BA.2 sublineage. The rest are BA.1. So, we are seeing an increasing proportion of BA.2 being detected. However, we are seeing a lower number of sequences being reported to platforms like GISAID. So, it still remains absolutely critical that we have good surveillance worldwide, that we have strong testing and that we have intelligent sequencing with good geographic representation around the world."
8. Wide shot, press room
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO:
"Omicron is a highly transmissible variant of concern, BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 and what we are starting to see in some regions of the world, in some countries, an uptake in cases again. This is in the context of Omicron, which is highly transmissible, but also in the context of lifting of public health and social measures. So whatever variant is circulating, if you lift all of the public health measures that we know can reduce the spread of this virus, the virus will take advantage of that."
10. Wide shot, press room
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Mike Ryan EXD, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO:
"The reproductive number has risen above one in many countries. So, in effect, transmission has taken off again in many, many countries. But what we've seen in those countries that have high levels of vaccination, especially amongst vulnerable people, is that continued decoupling of that high incidence from pressure on the health system and high rates of hospital admission and high rates of death. So, what we see is countries coping with that opening up. And as Maria said, when you open up as quickly as some countries have, you will get that bounce in transmission. If you add to that the increased transmissibility of BA.2, then you get a double impact. A double effect."
12. Wide shot, press room
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Mike Ryan EXD, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO:
"Other variants may emerge. This will, and with other effects like season and temperature, we may see incidents vary greatly around the world in the coming months. But I think the message we can take from this is in all of those countries that have focused on vaccination, have focused on vaccinating the most vulnerable and protecting the most vulnerable population, it does not necessarily result in massive increases in pressure on the health system, and it doesn't result in increases in death rates."
14. Wide shot, press room
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Mike Ryan EXD, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO:
"What we've learned so far with each and every one of the variants that's come along, that good surveillance, good tracking linked to measures that reduce transmission. But importantly, measures that protect individuals, especially vaccination, lead to a situation where the health system can cope, and populations can continue to live their lives as normally as possible."
16. Wide shot, press room

STORYLINE:
Briefing reporters today (23 Mar) in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “The global increase in COVID-19 cases continues, driven by large outbreaks in Asia and a fresh wave in Europe,” adding “We all want to move on from the pandemic. But no matter how much we wish it away, this pandemic is not over.”

Tedros said that several countries are now seeing their highest death rates since the beginning of the pandemic. “This reflects the speed with which Omicron spreads and the heightened risk of death for those who are not vaccinated, especially older people,” he explained.

He highlighted that until a high vaccination coverage is reached worldwide, we will continue to face the risk of infections surging and new variants that evade vaccines.

“WHO’s target remains to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year,” the WHO chief said.

“Achieving that target is essential to save lives, prevent the risk of long COVID, protect health systems and increase population immunity. Other tools, including testing, sequencing, and contact tracing, also remain essential, and it’s vital that countries don’t abandon the capacities they have built over the past two years,” he stressed.

WHO’s COVID-19 Technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, also highlighted that "whatever variant is circulating, if you lift all of the public health measures that we know can reduce the spread of this virus, the virus will take advantage of that."

Mike Ryan, WHO’s Executive Director, stressed that “when you open up as quickly as some countries have, you will get that bounce in transmission. If you add to that the increased transmissibility of BA.2, then you get a double impact. A double effect."

"What we've learned so far with each and every one of the variants that's come along, that good surveillance, good tracking linked to measures that reduce transmission,” Ryan added. “But importantly, measures that protect individuals, especially vaccination, lead to a situation where the health system can cope, and populations can continue to live their lives as normally as possible," he concluded.
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