Wednesday, January 19, 2022

‘Strong likelihood’ of more dangerous Covid variants, WHO experts warn

They say the pandemic 'is nowhere near finished'.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday that “more dangerous” variants of Covid-19 could tear across the world as global infections soared to half a million daily, largely driven by the virulent Delta strain.

An AFP tally of official sources found that after an initial dip, cases have been rising again worldwide since the end of June, topping 540,000 on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.

“The pandemic is nowhere near finished,” WHO’s emergency committee said in a statement.

It highlighted “the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control”.

The virus has reappeared in places long believed to have dodged the worst of the pandemic, with Australia – lauded for its successful “Covid zero” strategy – facing a resurgence that has grown to almost 1,000 cases nationwide in a month.

About 12 million Australians went under stay-at-home orders in the country’s second biggest city Melbourne, joining residents in Sydney.

State premier Dan Andrews said he took the decision to return the city – and surrounding Victoria – to its fifth lockdown “with a heavy heart”.

“Nothing about this virus is fair,” he said.

The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc from Asia to Africa, killing more than four million people since it first emerged in China in December 2019.

In Tokyo – now just over a week away from the opening ceremony of the virus-postponed Olympics – local authorities recorded 1,308 new cases, the highest number since January.

Organisers confirmed that an athlete in Japan and five Olympic workers, mostly contractors, had tested positive for Covid-19.

This came after eight staff at a hotel hosting Brazil’s Olympic judo team tested positive, and a staff member from Russia’s rugby sevens team was hospitalised after a positive test.

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