WHO’s Mike Ryan warns a new Covid variant may not be detected soon enough as surveillance eases

A new Covid-19 variant may not be detected soon enough as surveillance of the virus has been scaled back, Irish-born Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), today.

Speaking before a conference in UCC, he said that “we have lost the capacity to quickly detect this new variant.

“At the height of the pandemic, while we may have been under a lot of pressure, we had to do a lot of testing and sequencing. We recognized new variants quite efficiently and characterized them very well,” said Dr. Ryan.

“One of the biggest fears for the future is that a new variant that is easier to catch and potentially more severe could supersede BA.5. The sooner there is a warning about a new variant that could possibly become established, the faster the health authorities can react.”

dr Ryan added: “We’re seeing signs things are improving, but we also know there are gaps – a lot of people around the world aren’t protected, there’s a lot of systems that are still very weak, we don’t know how this virus will continue to evolve.”

He warned we need to stay vigilant as people get back to their lives – “everybody just has to be smart, smart about their own risks, smart about their own exposure and smart about the vaccination”.

Organized by the UCC School of Public Health and the college’s Center for Global Development, the conference will explore the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and solutions to avoid future public health challenges.

Governments must ensure that “we can integrate our surveillance and our testing, our treatment and our vaccination program into the normal health service and continue to deliver efficiently. Keep protecting people and let the health system and society recover.”

Professor Ivan Perry, Professor of Public Health, School of Public Health, UCC, said: “We will likely see the number of people with Covid rising again as we approach winter so we need to remain vigilant and wear a mask when we use public transport – a properly fitting N95 mask. Make sure public buildings are well ventilated and work from home as much as possible.”

dr Patricia Kearney, Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, UCC, said: “One of the lessons learned post-pandemic is that the power of vaccines, the power of science, is being recognised.”

Public health visibility, she said, has been a real strength of the pandemic.

“There is an understanding that there are things we can do at the population level that protect people,” she said.

“We know vaccines work, we saw that with Covid. This also applies to flu vaccines, which will soon be available, and vaccination of children. Vaccination is just a really important tool to prevent disease.”

Professor Ella Arensman, interim director of UCC’s School of Public Health and senior researcher at the National Suicide Research Foundation, pointed to research conducted during the Covid pandemic that has linked increased levels of alcohol abuse to depression, anxiety and domestic violence with intensified public health measures.

“Therefore, the full spectrum of responses beyond physical illness must be considered to more effectively prepare global society for future pandemics,” she said.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/whos-mike-ryan-warns-a-new-covid-variant-may-not-be-detected-early-enough-because-surveillance-is-slipping-42003836.html WHO’s Mike Ryan warns a new Covid variant may not be detected soon enough as surveillance eases

Fry Electronics Team

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