“Since February last year, the number of deaths reported to WHO each week has dropped by almost 90%.
But since mid-September, the number of weekly reported deaths has been stuck between 10 and 14 thousand deaths per week.
The world cannot accept this number of deaths when we have the tools to prevent them.
Last week, almost 11 500 deaths were reported to WHO – about 40% from the Americas, 30% from Europe and 30% from the Western Pacific region.
However, this number is almost certainly an underestimate given the under-reporting of COVID-related deaths in China,” Doctor Tedros Abhanom (Director General of UN World Health Organisation -WHO-) at the prress conference held today on this and other issues.
“As we enter the fourth year of this pandemic, we ask all countries to provide this data. The more data we have, the clearer a picture we have.
WHO Director General urged as well “all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences.
Investment in testing at-risk people to ensure they receive adequate care and in tracking the virus remains vital,” he added.
Data provided not accurate and inadequate to picture the actual situation
“…once again, the data we receive from countries is inadequate to give us a clear picture of who is dying, and why.
Only 53 out of 194 countries provide data on deaths that are disaggregated by age and sex.”
Despite the lack of accurate data, WHO can assess that most of those dying are at-risk groups, including older people.
“During the last six months of last year, people aged 65 or over accounted for almost 90% of all reported deaths,” Dr. Tedros pointed.
Sequencing and testing has dramatically dropped after Omicron wave, but still key to keep SARS-COV 2 under control
“…since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90%, and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third.
It’s understandable that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak.
At the same time, the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away. It won’t.
Sequencing remains vital to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants, such as XBB.1.5.,” Abhanom stressed.
Vaccination and anti contagion meassures still needed
“We continue to call on all countries to Socus on fully vaccinating the most at-risk groups, especially older people.
And we continue to call on all people to take appropriate precautions when necessary to protect yourself and others.
You may not die with this disease, but you could give it to someone else who does,” said WHO Director General.
On Omicron new variant XBB.1.5.
The Omicron XBB.1.5 variant is a sublineage of XBB, which is a recombinant of two BA.2 sublineages, WHO explains.
From 22 October 2022 to 11 January 2023, 5 288 sequences of the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant have been reported from 38 countries. Most of these sequences are from the United States of America (82.2%), the United Kingdom (8.1%), and Denmark (2.2%).
WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) met on 5 January 2023 to discuss the latest evidence on XBB.1.5 and assess the public health risk associated with this variant. Based on its genetic characteristics and early growth rate estimates, XBB.1.5 may contribute to increases in case incidence.
But Who also recognises that to date, the overall confidence in the assessment is low as growth advantage estimates are only from one country, the United States of America.