The world is seeing a downward trend in COVID-19 and monkeypox cases, but the World Health Organization says assuming this trend will continue is “dangerous” and urges governments and individuals to remain vigilant.
Globally, the number of weekly COVID-19 cases decreased by 12 per cent during the week of Aug. 29 to Sept. 4, as compared with the previous week, with just under 4.2 million new cases reported, according to WHO data.
Still, even as the number of deaths declined by five per cent during this time frame and by 80 per cent since February, the WHO says too many people are still dying from the virus as it continues to evolve.
“Last week, one person died with COVID-19 every 44 seconds. Most of those deaths are avoidable,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a briefing in Geneva Wednesday.
He also stressed that, although people are tired of hearing about the coronavirus, the threat this illness poses to the world continues.
That’s why Tedros says he believes it is “dangerous” for anyone to assume the current downward trend will continue.
“You might be tired of hearing me say the pandemic is not over, but I will keep saying it until it is. This virus will not just fade away.”
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Tedros’ comments came as news emerged Wednesday that a cabinet minister in New Brunswick issued a news release that included a statement saying “we are no longer in a pandemic” — a statement that was later revised to say “pandemic lockdowns.”
Dorothy Shepherd, now the minister of social development, who formerly served as health minister in the province, was promoting a new program that will deliver iPads to long-term care facilities in N.B. to help residents stay connected to loved ones.
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“Although we are no longer in a pandemic, the goal to connect everyone is still important,” Shepherd says in the release. This has since been corrected with a message of apology for an “oversight” that occurred in the drafting of the release.
While cases have been decreasing across the country in the last few weeks, the virus continues to infect and kill Canadians. The latest available data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows there were 20,843 new cases of COVID-19 in Canada during the week of Aug. 21-17 and 261 new deaths.
Dr. Maria Kherkove, COVID-19 technical lead for the World Health Organization, said Wednesday that it would still be some time before the virus that causes COVID-19 will “fall into a seasonal pattern” like Influenza. The virus is still evolving and lacks “predictability,” she said.
Tedros acknowledged that governments around the world are experiencing “multiple challenges and competing priorities.”
In an effort to help, the WHO has drafted a series of six briefs, to be released next week, outlining actions that all governments can take to reduce transmission and save lives. These actions include “essential elements of testing, clinical management, vaccination, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement and managing the infodemic,” according to the WHO.
“We hope countries will use this brief to reassess and readjust their policies to protect those most at risk, treat those who need it and save lives,” Tedros said.
On monkeypox, WHO is also seeing a downward trend in the number of reported cases in Europe and a decline in cases in the Americas. But the UN agency warns it is hard to draw conclusions about outbreaks in the Americas because some countries continue to see new cases, including Canada.
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However, Canada has seen a marked slowing of new monkeypox infections since the onset of the outbreak in May. In its last report published Sept. 2, PHAC reported there have been 1,289 monkeypox cases in the country to date — an increase of just 61 cases from the week before.
Despite this, the WHO urges all countries dealing with monkeypox to continue to treat the outbreak with urgency.
“A downward trend can be the most dangerous time if it opens the door to complacency,” Tedros said.
“WHO continues to recommend that all countries persist with a tailored combination of public health measures testing, research and targeted vaccination where vaccines are available.”
— with a file from Global News reporter Karla Renić.
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