End to pandemic not likely in 2021 – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes it is unlikely the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)will come to an end  by the end of 2021.

“I think it will be premature and unrealistic to think that are going to finish with this virus by the end of the year,” Michael Ryan, director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said at a briefing on Tuesday.

“What can, if are smart, finish with is the hospitalisations and the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic,” Ryan added.

The WHO’s focus at present was to keep transmissions as low as possible and vaccinate more and more people.

The situation regarding the delivery of vaccine doses had already improved compared to 10 weeks ago, Ryan said, although there were “huge challenges” in distributing and the virus still had the upper hand.

“If the vaccines begin to not only on death and not only on hospitalization, but have a significant on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe will accelerate towards controlling this pandemic,” Ryan said.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 rose by 7 per cent worldwide, last week, the WHO said later on Tuesday.

This is the first following a fall in case numbers over the past six weeks.

In the last week of February, 2.6 million cases were to the UN in Geneva in the last week of February.

The could be due to new and more contagious strains of the virus, the WHO said, citing easing of rules and fatigue with regulations as other possible causes.

The Middle East saw the largest rise of 14 per cent, followed by a 9-per-cent rise in South-East Asia. Case numbers also rose by 9 per cent in Europe and by 6 per cent in the Americas.

In contrast, nearly a quarter fewer cases were in Africa compared to the week before.

Likewise case numbers fell slightly in the Western Pacific region including East Asia and Australia.

According to WHO, vaccines do not provide immunity immediately but need several weeks before they become effective, and noted it would take even longer to protect populations.

That means testing, contact tracing, social distancing, masks and other hygiene measures remain critical. (dpa/NAN)