THE World Health Organization’s European office on Tuesday warned the risk of Covid-19 has not gone away, saying it was still responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths a week in the region.
The global health body on May 5 announced that the Covid-19 pandemic was no longer deemed a “global health emergency.”
WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters: “Whilst it may not be a global public health emergency, however, Covid-19 has not gone away.”
The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries, including several in central Asia.
Kluge said: “Close to 1,000 new Covid-19 deaths continue to occur across the region every week, and this is an underestimate due to a drop in countries regularly reporting Covid-19 deaths to WHO.”
He also urged authorities to ensure vaccination coverage of at least 70 percent for vulnerable groups.
Kluge said estimates showed that one in 30, or some 36 million people, in the region had experienced so called “long Covid” in the last three years, which “remains a complex condition we still know very little about.”
He warned that a treatment must be developed in order to ensure the globe recovers from the pandemic.
He said: “Unless we develop comprehensive diagnostics and treatment for long Covid, we will never truly recover from the pandemic.”
He encouraged more research in the area which he called an under-recognised condition.
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The health body also urged vigilance in the face of a resurgence of Mpox, having recorded 22 new cases across the region in May, and the health impact of heat waves.
A second case of the latest Covid variant was detected in Ireland in May, health chiefs confirmed.
There are fears that the new variant could be more transmissible again than previous super-strains.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said BA.4 and BA.5 were first detected in South Africa in January and February 2022.
Since then, there has been an alarming increase in cases in Portugal, with the new variant accounting for approximately 37 per cent of the positive cases as of May 8, 2022.
The HSE haven’t listed specific symptoms associated with the BA.4 variant just yet – but because BA.4 is a mutation of the Omicron variant, symptoms are expected to be very similar.
According to the Irish health service, the symptoms include:
- fever – high temperature – 38C or above – including having chills
- dry cough
And in severe cases, health chiefs say people can experience symptoms like:
- shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
- loss of appetite
- pain or pressure in the chest
The new variant is now dominant in South Africa and Portugal but Prof Kingston Mills of Trinity College Immunology does not predict a surge in Ireland.
However, he warned that the three doses of vaccination and previous infection will not protect against infection.