World Health Organization Updates COVID-19 Surveillance Schedule

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a change in its weekly epidemiological update schedule for COVID-19. Instead of weekly reports, the WHO will now release updates every four weeks as it shifts its focus from emergency response to long-term prevention, control, and management of the disease.

While emphasizing the need to maintain infrastructure, the WHO underscored that COVID-19 continues to pose a significant threat. It urged countries to sustain early warning systems, surveillance, and reporting, as well as to track new variants. The organization also called for prioritizing early clinical care and vaccines, especially for high-risk patient groups.

The update acknowledged that reported cases no longer accurately reflect infection rates due to reduced global testing and reporting.

Recent data from the WHO reveals a concerning increase in COVID-19 cases. In the 28-day period leading up to August 27th, over 1.4 million new cases were reported, marking a 38% rise compared to the previous period. While the number of reported deaths decreased by 50%, with 1,800 fatalities reported during the same timeframe.

Globally, there have been more than 770 million confirmed cases and over 6.9 million deaths as of August 27th.

According to the WHO, the most prevalent variant among the three Variants of Interest (VOIs) is now the EG.5 variant, known as Eris. Eris accounted for 26.1% of sequences submitted to a central database between August 7th and August 13th, surpassing the previous leading variant XBB.1.16, which accounted for 22.7% of sequences. The third VOI identified is XBB.1.5, which accounted for 10.2% of sequences.

Meanwhile, the BA.2.86 variant, also known as pirola, remains one of the seven Variants Under Monitoring (VUMs), a designation lower than a VOI. Pirola was classified as a VUM on August 17th, with 21 reported sequences from seven countries as of August 30th. The WHO is presently assessing the potential impact of the high number of mutations in the BA.2.86 variant.

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