At a meeting of its member states on Thursday, World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivered both good and bad news about COVID-19.
He said that in the fourth year of the pandemic, “The world is in a much better place than it was several years ago, because of clinical care management, vaccines and treatments. For most of last year, COVID-19 was on the decline. Vaccination increased across the world, and there was sustained progress in many lower- and middle-income countries.”
He warned, however, that the threat of COVID-19 persists. “Major inequalities in access to testing, treatment and vaccination continue. Every week, approximately 10,000 people die of COVID-19. The true toll is likely much higher.”
“The current COVID-19 epidemiological picture is troubling,” Tedros said. “There is intense transmission and pressure on health systems, particularly in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, and a recombinant sub-variant spreading quickly.”
The new variant, XBB.1.5, is the product of two sub-lineages from the BA.2 coronavirus variant, he said.
“It was originally identified in October 2022, has now been detected in 29 countries and appears to be growing quickly in some geographies.” Tedros said, adding that the WHO is following it closely.
China, meanwhile, Tedros said is “experiencing very high transmission at the moment,” and WHO officials have met with Chinese officials to discuss the surge in cases and hospitalizations.