Warning of rise of Omicron subvariants in Africa as Biden laments US death toll


Subvariants of omicron and an easing of public health measures are leading to a surge in infections in southern Africa, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has warned.

r Abdou Salam Gueye, director of emergency preparedness and response at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, said other countries must be prepared for any new wave of Covid.

“This surge in cases is an early warning sign that we are monitoring closely,” he said. “Now is the time for countries to step up their preparedness and ensure they can respond effectively in the event of a new wave of the pandemic.”

It comes as US President Joe Biden, at a Covid-19 summit, appealed to world leaders to revive a flagging international commitment to fighting the virus. It also marked the “tragic milestone” of one million deaths in the United States.

The President ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast and warned the world against complacency.

“This pandemic is not over yet,” declared Mr. Biden. He spoke solemnly of the once unthinkable US toll: “A million empty chairs at the family dinner table.”

The coronavirus has been linked to at least 6.2 million deaths worldwide since it emerged in late 2019, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Censuses by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association put the US death toll at one million.

“Today we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, one million deaths from Covid,” he said.

The president called on Congress to urgently provide billions more dollars for tests, vaccines and treatments, something lawmakers have so far been unwilling to deliver.

Eight months after he used the first Covid summit to announce an ambitious pledge to donate 1.2 billion doses of vaccine to the world, the urgency for the US and other nations to respond has diminished.

The momentum in vaccines and treatments has slowed, even as infectious variants continue to rise and billions of people around the world remain unprotected.

The US is co-hosting the summit with Germany, Indonesia, Senegal and Belize.

“This summit is an opportunity to renew our efforts to keep our foot on the gas in bringing this pandemic under control and preventing future public health crises,” Biden said.

However, the United States currently has no plans to share vaccines with North Korea, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said after Pyongyang reported its first Covid-19 outbreak.

The spokesman said North Korea has repeatedly turned down vaccine donations from the global vaccine-sharing project COVAX.

North Korea’s first public admission of Covid infections underscores the potential for a major crisis in a country that lacks medical resources, has refused international help with vaccinations and has kept its borders closed.

The country has imposed a nationwide lockdown after more than two years of clinging to a widely-disputed claim that a perfect record is keeping out the virus, which has spread to almost every corner of the world.

The outbreak has forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public for what is likely the first time since the pandemic began, but the extent of transmissions within North Korea is not yet known.

Hours later, South Korea’s military said it had determined the North had fired three suspected ballistic missiles at sea.

This was the 16th round of missile launches this year, aimed at forcing the US to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate sanctions relaxation and other concessions from a position of strength. Warning of rise of Omicron subvariants in Africa as Biden laments US death toll

Fry Electronics Team

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