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Vigilance and COVID

The World Health Organization has warned that while reported cases and deaths had been dropping dramatically, the drop in COVID testing has left the world blind to the virus continuing rampage and its potentially dangerous mutations.

“Last week, just over 15 thousand deaths were reported to WHO – the lowest weekly total since March 2020,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. While this is “a very welcome trend,” he warned that the declining numbers could also be a result of significant cuts in testing for the virus.

“This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution,” Tedros said. “When it comes to a deadly virus, ignorance is not bliss.”

William Rodrigues, head of global diagnostics alliance FIND, also decried that many governments in recent months simply stopped looking for COVID. He pointed out that in the past four months, amid surging cases from the Omicron variant, “testing rates have plummeted by 70 to 90 percent worldwide.”

While many countries have been removing measures and trying to move back to a semblance of normality, the WHO stresses that the pandemic is still not over. “This virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it,” Tedros said, pointing out that “it is still spreading, it is still changing, and it is still killing.”

He cautioned that the threat of a dangerous new variant remains very real.

The Philippines just detected the other day its first case of Omicron sub variant BA.2.12, which has been flagged by the United States Center for Disease Control due to the rise in cases in the USA. While everyone has been practically expecting a surge, nothing has been done to prepare for it, especially in terms of testing.

The testing that was one of our county’s primary weaknesses in terms of COVID response should never have been allowed to taper off and must now be ramped up ASAP to improve detection and ensure that appropriate action is taken to prevent future infections, hospitalizations and deaths from getting out of hand.*

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