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The World Health Organization has warned countries not to reduce COVID-19 testing | Health

The World Health Organization has warned countries not to reduce COVID-19 testing | Health
The World Health Organization has warned countries not to reduce COVID-19 testing | Health

WHO warns countries not to decrease testing for COVID-19!

According to the WHO's weekly epidemiological report released on Tuesday, the number of new cases reported worldwide between March 21 and March 27 declined by 14 percent compared to the previous week.  Every single region reported a decline, including the Americas and the eastern MediterraneanThe World Health Organization has warned countries not to reduce COVID-19 testing., which saw declines of 14 percent and 32 percent.

While this may sound like positive news, the report said the reduction in cases "must be interpreted with caution" as many countries have reduced testing capacity.

“Many countries are progressively changing their COVID-19 testing strategies, which has resulted in reducing the total number of tests and resulting in lower number of cases detected.  Despite the general decline in the rate of SARS-CoV-2 testing seen in the six WHO regions, the number of new weekly cases rose again in mid-March, indicating that the virus is currently spreading at very high levels.

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The report expressed concern about a "significant shortage" of COVID-19 testing in several unnamed countries and said the data is "progressively" becoming less representative, less timely and less robust.

"This hinders our collective ability to track where the virus is, how it is spreading and how it is evolving: the information and analysis that are critical to effectively ending the acute phase of the pandemic."

COVID-19 testing has been declining in Canada since the beginning of the year and is now back at 2020 levels.  The country's seven-day moving average was 41,548 for the tests conducted till March 28, a figure not up since July 2020.

In BC, there has been a steady decrease in laboratory testing since December.  The number of lab tests done in a single day in BC, since the beginning of February.  does not exceed 10,000.  In addition, the number of new cases in B.C.  Limited access to PCR testing is likely to result in far more each day than is reported by the provincial government - the only method included in the province's official case reports.

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The WHO report warned countries against reducing testing and other surveillance measures too quickly, reducing their ability to detect new variants, and hampering response efforts.

"Uncertainty about the characteristics of the emerging forms limits our ability to confidently predict the behavior of this disease, as the growth rate and the risk of emerging forms are still high, which is important for prevention and mitigation measures," the report said.  could weaken it."  "Until we reach the end of the acute phase of the pandemic, countries must maintain adequate epidemiological surveillance."

It is important to reduce transmission, say WHO officials

During a press conference on Wednesday, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical chief for the WHO's COVID-19 response, said countries should continue to focus on reducing transmission.

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“If we do not continue to focus on reducing the spread, we will continue to see further evolution of the virus and the future of future variants is uncertain. It may become more severe, it may become less severe and  We need to prepare for all those events," she said.

Van Kerkhove said, many countries are struggling to "pull themselves out" from their current circumstances.  She also said that COVID-19, especially its version BA.2, is spreading rapidly despite changes in testing and surveillance.

"We are in the third year of this pandemic and there is a lot of energy left in this virus. It is spreading at such a rapid level," she said.  "There are at least 10 to 11 million new cases being reported every week and we know this has been underestimated because surveillance has changed and testing has stopped or significantly reduced in many countries."

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Dr Mike Ryan, WHO's Health Emergencies Program Director, said the reproduction number of COVID-19 has exceeded one in many countries, leading to an increase in new cases.  He also said that when countries open up and lift most restrictions, there is almost always a rebound in new COVID-19 cases. 

"With a rapid opening up and the removal of almost all restrictions there will almost certainly be a rebound in infections, the question is what will be the impact of the rebound," Ryan said.  "We've seen the effect of the sublineage Ba.2 and its increased transmissibility in Asia. Now we're seeing some increased pressure in Europe because of that virus, which has an additional degree of transmissibility and a lot of reinfection."

While the virus may "mild" as more people are vaccinated, Ryan said there is still a fair chance that increased transmission could result in additional strain on the health system. 

"Every government has to look into that. They have to make some choices around it and what they will advise the people to do," he said.  “We hope that governments are not doing that, taking that personal responsibility back on individuals and not supporting those who continue to take precautions, especially those who may be vulnerable."

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Still, Ryan said everyone would need to make their own choices about their risk.

"I will continue to wear my mask on the number eight bus when I am coming to work and I think each person has to make their own decision about their own risk and their likelihood of exposing others."

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, said that it appears that the best scenario in the future is emerging with less severe forms that do not require booster shots or the use of new vaccines.  He said the worst-case scenario would be a situation where a more virulent and highly infectious form emerges that evades vaccines and kills people.

"To address this situation, existing vaccines will need to be significantly altered and ensured that they reach those most vulnerable to severe disease," he said.

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To move the world ahead this year and "end the acute phase" of the pandemic, Dr.  Tedros said countries will need to invest in key areas such as surveillance, laboratories and public health intelligence, as well as research and development.  He also said that if the world wants to come out of the pandemic then basic equipment like wearing masks and washing hands should also continue.

"We have all the tools we need to bring this pandemic under control," he said.  "We can prevent transmission with masks, hand hygiene and ventilation, and we can save lives by making sure everyone has access to tests, treatments and vaccines."

Source: CHEK News, World Health Organization, Direct News 99