Covid horror: WHO chief calls for return of masks as pandemic ‘nowhere near over’

Covid-19: Dr Hilary calls for return of masks as cases rise

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Speaking in a weekly COVID-19 briefing, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus suggested that subvariants of the Omicron strain “continue to drive cases, hospitalisations and death”. In a stark warning, the health chief claimed there was a “major disconnect” between scientists, politicians and the public over the risk Covid still posed.

It comes as Covid cases slowly rise in the UK as Britons enjoy the first summer in two years without any restrictions.

This summer also marks the return of international travel for many, as people venture abroad for their holidays.

In comments made on Tuesday, the WHO chief noted his concern that Covid cases were continuing to rise around the world, “putting further pressure on health systems and health workers”.

In Britain, the NHS still faces a massive backlog of over six million patients – many of whom put off receiving care during the pandemic as the health service battled the virus.

Earlier this week, health minister Lord Kamall said that the Government was focussing on bringing the backlog down, but added: “If it gets to a point where it is affecting the backlog then clearly measures may well have to be introduced.”

Government statistics show that, in England, there has been a steady rise in cases since the end of May.

Accordingly, hospital admissions with those testing positive for coronavirus have increased. As of July 13, there were nearly 14,000 patients in hospital with the virus.

Unlike other nations, the UK has benefited from a high vaccination rate. More than 93 percent of people aged over 12 have had a first dose, and over 87 percent have had two doses – far higher than the 70 percent recommended by the WHO.

This has been attributed to the relatively low number of people who now require intensive care. Of those hospitalised, just 274 are on ventilators in England as of yesterday (Wednesday).

There has been a rise in deaths as well, with 95 recorded on July 5. However, this is so far below similar rises earlier in the year – and a fraction of the thousands of daily deaths recorded at the height of the pandemic.

Even though the vaccine has limited the devastating effects of the virus, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday the UK had now passed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Dr Ghebreyesus said that the WHO’s Covid committee had concluded at the end of last week that the coronavirus “remains a public health emergency of international concern”.

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He said that the world still faces “several interlinked challenges”, including the pressure from new subvariants that continue to emerge. Dr Ghebreyesus referenced the latest – BA.2.75, or “centaurus” – which emerged in India in May.

The medical chief commented: “New waves of the virus demonstrate that COVID-19 is nowhere near over. As the virus pushes at us, we must push back.

“We’re in a much better position than we were at the beginning of the pandemic – of course we have made progress. We have safe and effective tools that prevent infections, hospitalisations and deaths.”

He added: “As transmissions and hospitalisations rise, Governments must deploy tried and tested measures like masking, improved ventilation, and test and treat protocols.”

However, Dr Ghebreyesus argued that despite the threat, “there is a major disconnect in COVID-19 risk perception between scientific communities, political leaders and the general public.

“This is a dual challenge of communicating risk and building community trust in health tools and public health social measures, like masking, distancing and ventilation.”

He said that the virus was “running freely” and that nations were “not effectively managing” the spread of Covid.

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