WHO alerts COVID-19 risk still remains high

How Honduras first performed genomic sequencing of COVID-19 virus to detect circulating variants. Photo Courtesy: WHO/PAHO

The public health risk from COVID-19 remains high, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday (January 12, 2024).

The virus is still circulating globally but relatively few countries are following infections closely, meaning the actual threat due to the coronavirus and its variants could be anything from two to 19 times higher than what is being reported to WHO.

The agency’s COVID focal point, Dr Maria Van Kerhove, told journalists in Geneva that data from just 50 countries indicates there are still 10,000 deaths per month due to the virus.

“On the positive side, the numbers of deaths have reduced drastically since its peak a couple of years ago”, the senior official said.

Among the 10,000 deaths reported in December, more than half were reported from the United States with a further 1,000 from Italy.

She said it was clear that other deaths were simply not being recorded but that “doesn’t mean that they’re not happening.”

Dr Van Kerkhove also noted with concern a steep rise in hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions and warned that these numbers are likely to have increased over the holiday season.

The UN health agency official said that many countries continue to suffer unnecessarily from COVID which can be prevented with adequate testing and antivirals, along with appropriate clinical care, oxygen and vaccination.