COVID-19 cases are surging around the world, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise concerns about the reduction in testing and lack of equitable access to vaccines and antivirals in some low-income countries.
According to the WHO, the number of positive COVID-19 cases worldwide has increased by 30 percent in the past two weeks.
This is the latest in an upward trend in new cases that began four weeks ago after cases declined since the last peak in March 2022, according to the WHO.
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A “dramatic” drop in testing in countries around the world is compounding the challenge of the ongoing pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference on Wednesday.
“This obscures the true picture of an evolving virus and the real burden of the COVID-19 disease worldwide,” he said.
“It also means that treatments are not given early enough to prevent serious illness and/or death.”
In the US and Europe, the rapidly spreading Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are driving the current surge in cases.
These subvariants have so far been able to effectively evade immunity from both vaccination and previous infections, leading to new outbreaks around the world.
Experts predict that Omicron BA.5 will account for almost 70% of cases by Canada Day
In Canada, federal health authorities have also raised concerns about an increase in the prevalence and spread of BA.4 and BA.5. According to federal epidemiological data on COVID-19, the two subvariants now collectively account for nearly 30 percent of new cases in Canada.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has repeatedly warned of the need to be vigilant, specifically urging last week that the country should “prepare for a resurgence in the coming weeks and months”.
“Given that BA.4 and BA.5 are even more transmissible and immunoinvasive than BA.1 and BA.2., it’s reasonable to expect that we’ll see an increase in cases in the coming weeks,” Tam said during one Briefing June 30th.
A spike in Omicron cases this summer likely means more hospitalizations
In recent weeks, several provinces have seen increases in COVID-19 activity, including Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This is leading some experts to predict that a “summer wave” is imminent.
Marianne Levitsky, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, said she believes Ontario sewage data is the most reliable indicator of infection in that province as testing has been reduced in Ontario.
And the latest data suggests a summer wave could very well be at play, she said.
“The sewage signal indicates the numbers are rising and that’s certainly being said by Public Health Ontario, the science desk etc so sadly it looks like that’s the situation we’re in.”
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The data also shows these increases began when public mask mandates were lifted, underscoring the importance of masking and other public health measures in stemming the spread of the virus, said Levitsky, who is also an occupational hygienist and an expert on hazards and controls workplace is.
“It seems like something of a perfect storm situation … the different mandates and control requirements came around around the time this more contagious variant hit us,” she said.
For this reason, she believes that mask requirements should be reintroduced as new variants proliferate, particularly BA.5 in Canada, stressing that masks remain “strongly recommended” by health authorities.
“We know that this particular variant just appears to be extremely contagious, eluding immunity from vaccines and previous infections…at the moment it looks like the risk is increasing. So we need to reintroduce some of the controls we used in the past.”
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WHO official Dr. Mike Ryan said on Wednesday he believes a “much more intense wave of disease” is crossing countries around the world, but that it is not being captured due to a “data breakdown”.
However, deaths from COVID-19 are not increasing significantly, which could mean the new variants are not as strong and that vaccines are working, he said.
This makes it all the more important to ensure low- and middle-income countries have more equitable access to vaccines and antivirals like Paxlovid, which can significantly reduce serious outcomes and deaths.
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WHO calls on countries to invest more in surveillance and information sharing, and to allocate resources better. Because until the whole world is better protected, the virus will not stop circulating, Ryan said.
“WHO is not here to tell the world it’s time to lift our lockdown,” he said.
“But what we are telling countries is to make sure your most vulnerable people are vaccinated, that your immunity is strong, that you keep your surveillance up and that you have your antivirals in the system so that the vulnerable people who have it Those infected can be treated early and, as I said, ensure that we take care of each other.”
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8970979/covid-19-cases-rising-globally-who-canada-summer-wave/ COVID cases are increasing worldwide. Is a “summer wave” coming to Canada? – National