The global epidemic is still at a high level, and the virus is still mutating

At present, the absolute number of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia in the world is still high, the new coronavirus is still spreading rapidly and constantly changing, and the situation of epidemic prevention and control is facing great uncertainty. The WHO emphasized that the epidemic is still a global problem, and now is not the time to retreat from epidemic prevention and control, but to really strengthen the epidemic prevention work that has been put in place. This will keep people’s lives safe and get the economy back on track.

According to the latest data released by the World Health Organization on May 4, the cumulative number of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia in the world has reached 512,607,587. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on all countries to continue to monitor the corona virus, “in the face of a deadly virus, we must not turn a blind eye.” Public health experts from many countries have pointed out that the epidemic is not over yet, and it is still necessary to remain vigilant. Some countries choose to “lay flat” as a disregard for life, and those countries that “lay flat” have paid a heavy price.

On May 4, Tedros said at a press conference that the number of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia reported in the Americas and Africa was increasing due to the Omicron subtype strain. Van Kerckhofer, technical director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said that several countries have detected the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron subtype, and researchers have obtained hundreds of gene sequences. The two new subtype strains are being evaluated by WHO. She reiterated her call for countries to continue monitoring and testing for the new coronavirus so that WHO can conduct relevant research and make the best recommendations.

According to the weekly epidemic report released by the WHO recently, the Omicron strain is the mainstream variant that is prevalent in the world. Among the more than 250,000 new coronavirus sequences recorded so far, 99.7% are the Omicron strain. Since its emergence in November 2021, the Omicron strain has evolved numerous subtypes and recombinant strains. Epidemiologists say that the rate of mutation of the new coronavirus has not slowed down, and as the mutation continues, its infectivity may continue to increase.

“The threat of virus variants is very real. The long-term impact of the new coronavirus infection is still unclear. It is necessary to continue to monitor the new coronavirus.” The number of reported cases and deaths continues to decline, and WHO is receiving less information about the spread and genetic sequencing of the new coronavirus, compromising its ability to monitor the trend of the outbreak. “We are getting more and more blind to the patterns of (new coronavirus) transmission and evolution. The virus is not going away because countries stop tracking it. It is still spreading, it is still changing, it is still taking people’s lives,” Tedros said.

“We must strive to achieve large-scale coverage of vaccination, and continue to do a good job in epidemic monitoring and clinical management”

Globally reported cases and deaths have continued to decline since the end of March this year. The WHO said that as some countries drastically reduced the number of tests, the actual level of infection far exceeded the numbers reported by countries to the WHO.

According to estimates, 60% to 80% of the EU population has been infected with the corona virus as of now, Kiriakidis, the European Commissioner responsible for health and food safety, said at a press conference recently. EU member states need to be highly vigilant and prepared for new outbreaks and mutated viruses “because the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet”. Kyriakidis once again warned member states on May 4 that there are still 90 million people in EU countries who have not been vaccinated, and there can be no complacency in dealing with this epidemic. The danger of a new round of outbreaks always exists.

Affected by the outbreak in South Africa, the number of new diagnoses and deaths in the previously slowed African region has recently risen again, the WHO Regional Office for Africa said a few days ago. African countries should remain vigilant. Machidiso Muti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, believes that the new coronavirus is still circulating, and even more deadly mutant strains may emerge, and surveillance measures still need to be retained while promoting vaccination.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said that the new coronavirus and its potential to continue to mutate cannot be ignored at this stage. People are eager to get out of the pandemic, but the undeniable fact is that “the epidemic is still raging. We are still not out of the epidemic.” Van Kerckhoffer also emphasized that now is not the time to retreat from epidemic prevention and control, but to really strengthen the epidemic prevention work that has been put in place. This will keep people’s lives safe and get the economy back on track.

Seth Berkeley, CEO of the Gavi Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, said that the current world’s immunization gap has eased, but there are still huge differences in immunization levels between countries. Globally, 59% of people have received at least two doses of the covid vaccine, in low-income countries the figure is 44%, and 18 countries have a covid vaccination rate of less than 10%.

Ciro Ugarte, director of the Pan American Health Organization’s emergency health department, warned recently: “We have not reached the point of complete control of infections and deaths, both at the regional and global levels. To end this critical phase, The only way is to strive to achieve large-scale vaccination coverage, and continue to do a good job in epidemic monitoring and clinical management.”

“Abandoning epidemic prevention and control is a disregard for life, and relevant countries have paid a heavier price.”

Public health experts have repeatedly warned that humans still do not fully understand the new coronavirus and cannot predict how the virus will evolve. The British Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies believes that considerable uncertainty remains about the pandemic, the higher global prevalence of the new coronavirus provides more opportunities for virus mutation, and humans face a higher risk of emerging new mutant strains. The rationale is to assume that all mutant strains that emerge in the future will be mild.”

However, because some countries and regions could not find an ideal strategy to control the epidemic, coupled with complex factors such as economic downturn and anti-epidemic fatigue, in addition to strengthening vaccination, they no longer emphasized or simply did not take other prevention and control measures. The result has been a surge in cases and a high number of deaths. This approach has been questioned and criticized by many parties.

Mark van Lanster, a well-known Belgian virologist, said in an interview with this reporter recently: “Some countries have not chosen the strategy of maximizing the containment of the virus from the beginning. Some countries have tried, but failed. Controlling the epidemic is not only It tests the government’s social governance ability and the determination of policy makers. Abandoning epidemic prevention and control is a disregard for life, and the relevant countries have paid a heavier price.”

In the United States, which has the largest number of confirmed cases in the world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s epidemic curve chart shows that the highest number of new deaths in a single day in the United States appeared on February 1 this year, with 4,184 deaths, and this data occurred in Omic At the peak of the outbreak caused by the Rong strain, after more than 65% of the American population was fully vaccinated. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 1 million as the virus was allowed to spread.

The Humanities and Social Sciences Correspondence, a subsidiary of the British “Nature” magazine, recently published an article criticizing Sweden’s anti-epidemic strategy, arguing that Sweden’s “natural” herd immunity strategy led to higher mortality. The article pointed out that Sweden’s covid pneumonia mortality rate in 2020 is 10 times that of neighboring Norway. “If Sweden wants to do better in future pandemics, it must re-establish the scientific method.”

In February this year, the UK announced its “Coexistence with Covid-19” plan, lifting all restrictions in a legal sense. Since then, the epidemic in the UK has continued to deteriorate, with infection levels rising to record highs, putting heavy pressure on the health care system. Right now, the UK healthcare system is struggling.

Experts remind that giving up prevention and control poses greater risks to groups such as the elderly, people with underlying diseases and immune-compromised people. South Korean data show that in the first week of April, people over the age of 60 accounted for 85.7% and 94.4% of the severe and fatal cases of new coronary pneumonia, respectively. In addition, more than half of South Korean children aged 9 and under have been infected with the corona virus, and some children suffer from sequelae such as loss of smell.

Viola, a professor of pathology at the University of Padova in Italy, pointed out that the problem of new coronavirus reinfection should not be ignored. After infection with the Delta strain, it is still possible to re-infect with the Omicron strain.

Wendy Buckley, a virologist at Imperial College London, has a negative view on whether the new coronavirus will “continue to weaken its toxicity” after it mutates. Buckley believes that in addition to common mutations, the new coronavirus will evolve rapidly through recombination. If one Omicron variant recombines with another SARS-CoV-2 variant, it is possible to produce a strain that can both immune evasion and cause more severe disease. “It would be good news if these emerging mutants could herald a milder course of the virus, but biology tells us it won’t be like this forever,” Buckley said.

Public health experts emphasized that human understanding of the new coronavirus is still insufficient, the current epidemic is not over, and it is far from the time when the fight against the epidemic is relaxed.

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