COVID-19: the end of the pandemic is “in sight”, according to the head of the World Health Organization | Science | New

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The promising statement came from the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a virtual press conference held on Wednesday. Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Last week, the number of weekly deaths reported from COVID-19 was the lowest since March 2020. “We have never been better placed to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight. We see the finish line. We are in a winning position.

Continuing the sports metaphor, however, Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that now would be “the worst time to stop running.

He added: “Now is the time to race harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”

To that end, the WHO chief said countries around the world must review their public health policies and strengthen them against both SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as against potential future pandemics.

He also urged nations to continue testing for the virus and ensure high-risk groups are fully vaccinated against Covid.

The WHO has also warned that we must ensure that we maintain an adequate supply of medical equipment and health personnel.

Epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of Imperial College London told Reuters: “We expect there to be future waves of infections, potentially at different times around the world, caused by different sub- variants of Omicron or even different variants of concern.”

A European Commission spokesperson added: “The summer wave of COVID-19, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, has shown that the pandemic is not yet over as the virus continues to circulate in Europe. and beyond.

October will see the next meeting of the WHO panel which will determine whether the Covid pandemic should still be classified as a public health emergency of international concern.

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The new sub-variant is a descendant of the older BA.4 Omicron variant which was first detected in January this year in South Africa.

Experts do not currently know how BA4.6 emerged from this, but a main hypothesis is that it is a so-called recombinant variant.

These are produced when a person is infected with two different variants of the virus at the same time and their genetic material mixes together.

BA4.6 is very similar to BA.4.6, but it also carries a mutation in the spike protein that allows the virus to infect cells. This mutation, called “R346T”, has already been detected in other variants and has been associated with an improved ability to evade immune defences.

However, the medical community hopes that the newly developed bivalent boosters – designed to help specifically target Omicron, alongside the original SARS-CoV-2 virus – can help mitigate this.

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