The World Health Organisation (WHO) says sequencing remains vital to detecting and tracking the emergence and spread of new variants of COVID-19, such as XBB.1.5.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said this at an online media conference.
“It’s now three years since the first sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was shared with the world,” he said.
Ghebreyesus said that sequence enabled the development of the first tests, and ultimately, vaccines.
“Throughout the pandemic, testing and sequencing helped us to track the spread and development of new variants.
“But since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90 per cent and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third.
“It’s understandable that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak,’” he said.
Ghebreyesus said the world cannot close its eyes and hope the virus would go away.
He called on all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences.
According to him, investment in testing at-risk people to ensure they receive adequate care and in tracking the virus remains vital.
“There is no doubt that globally we are in a vastly better position than we were a year ago,” he said.
According to him, the end of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, four months after the first cases were reported is appreciated.
“I congratulate the government, the people of Uganda and health workers, some of whom lost their lives, for their leadership and dedication in bringing this outbreak to an end.
“And we thank donors and partners for swiftly mobilising resources, and vaccine developers for making candidate vaccines available in record time.
“Even in the absence of approved vaccines or therapeutics for this type of Ebola, Uganda was able to use proven public health tools to contain the outbreak,” he said.
According to him, the outbreak has finished, but WHO’s commitment to Uganda has not.
He said that the organisation remained committed to strengthening Uganda’s health system as part of its journey toward universal health coverage. (NAN)