The World Health Organization has held a high-level meeting with China on the current surge in Covid-19 cases, to seek further information and offer expertise and support.
The meeting comes even as the world continues to grapple with the virus that was first reported out of Wuhan, China, three years to the month.
There have since been multiple variants that have emerged from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. The variants and recombinants behind the recent surges in countries including China, Japan and the US are off-shoots of the Omicron strain.
WHO experts have been repeatedly calling for greater testing, reporting, sequencing and data sharing, so health administrators across the world would not have to “fly blind” in tailoring their response.
Soaring China Covid cases increase risk of new variants: experts
While China’s National Health Commission has stopped issuing daily case numbers, officials in several cities estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have been infected in recent weeks
Calling for greater sequencing and sharing of real-time data, the WHO said it has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution on 3 January.
The latest developments unfold even as WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, indicated at his last briefing for 2022, that the new year would hopefully see an end to three pandemics – Covid-19, Ebola and mpox (monkey pox).
Meanwhile, at its latest interaction, high-level officials from China’s National Health Commission and the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration briefed WHO on China’s evolving strategy and actions in the areas of epidemiology, monitoring of variants, vaccination, clinical care, communication and research and development.
“WHO has again asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation — including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact, including hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths — and data on vaccinations delivered and vaccination status, especially in vulnerable people and those over 60 years old,” the UN health agency said, reiterating the importance of vaccination and boosters to protect against severe disease and death for people at higher risk.
WHO also called on China to strengthen its viral sequencing, clinical management and impact assessment, and expressed willingness to provide support on these areas, as well as on risk communications on vaccination to counter hesitancy. “Chinese scientists are invited to engage more closely in WHO-led Covid-19 expert networks, including the Covid-19 clinical management network,” it said.
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