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COVID-19 cases rise in 4 of 6 WHO regions: World health chief

Tedros Ghebreyesus says WHO deeply concerned about coronavirus outbreak among North Korea's unvaccinated population

Peter Kenny   | 17.05.2022
COVID-19 cases rise in 4 of 6 WHO regions: World health chief

GENEVA

Over the last week, COVID-19 cases have risen in four of the six World Health Organization regions, the WHO chief said Tuesday, airing concern about the increasing difficulty in learning how the virus is mutating, along with the need for more information from North Korea.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that due to drops in testing and sequencing in many countries, “it is increasingly difficult to know where the virus is and how it’s mutating.”

He said that North Korea had announced, through the state media, its first outbreak of COVID-19, with more than 1.4 million suspected cases since late April.

“WHO is deeply concerned at the risk of further spread of COVID-19 in the country, particularly because the population is unvaccinated and many have underlying conditions putting them at risk of severe disease and death,” said Tedros.

The world health body said it had requested that North Korea share data and information about COVID-19 so that it can assist the country in fighting the pandemic.

So far, 6,291,065 people worldwide have perished from COVID-19, while nearly 520 million cases have been confirmed, since the disease first emerged in early 2020.

Technical support

Tedros also said: “WHO has offered to provide a package of technical support and supplies, including diagnostic tests, essential medicines, and vaccines ready to be deployed to the country (North Korea).”

“We are also concerned about Eritrea, another country that has not started vaccinating its populations,” said Tedros, referring to the isolated northeastern African country.

He spoke about the “critically important” World Health Assembly (WHA) that will hold its first face-to-face meeting of global health leaders for the past three years in Geneva on Sunday.

“The pandemic will be discussed, including how to end the emergency, including increasing access to vaccines, antivirals, and other lifesaving tools,” Tedros noted.

The WHA is the decision-making body of WHO attended by delegations from all 194 member states, focusing on a specific health agenda prepared by the organization’s executive board.

Biden's announcement

Last week, Tedros said he welcomed US President Joe Biden’s announcement about sharing health technologies between the US National Institutes of Health, WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, and the Medicines Patent Pool.

These relate to developing innovative therapeutics, early-stage vaccines, and diagnostic tools for COVID-19.

WHO said that during 2020-2021, it led the largest-ever global response to a health crisis, working with 1,600 technical and operational partners, and helped galvanize the biggest, fastest, and most complex vaccination drive in history.

The organization spent $1.7 billion on essential supplies for the COVID-19 response.​​​​​​​

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