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COVID-19

COVID testing and vaccinations drop across Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: October 7, 2021)

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that since August there has been a drop in COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and that around 1.6 million doses of vaccine could expire if not used quickly.

To address this, WHO and partners are boosting testing and supporting the rollout of a vaccination campaign in 16 provinces, the organization said.

WHO recently flew 50,000 COVID-19 tests to Afghanistan to fill gaps at labs. 150,000 more are in the pipeline.

A microscope lab was meanwhile completed in Nimroz province last month and in Kunar on Tuesday.

Labs in Parwan, Laghman and Kapisa are also underway.

When complete there will be 36 WHO-supported COVID labs in Afghanistan.

Since August, WHO has sent life-saving medicines and medical supplies to 360 health facilities in Afghanistan to cover the health needs of 3.9 million people.

On Wednesday, supplies were sent to two hospitals in Kabul and WHO provincial offices for onward distribution. The supplies will cover the health needs of 50,000 people in Afghanistan, the organization stated.

COVID-19

COVID is less severe with Omicron than Delta, U.S. study suggests

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2022)

The Omicron variant appears to result in less severe COVID-19 than seen during previous periods of high coronavirus transmission including the Delta wave, with shorter hospital stays, less need for intensive care and fewer deaths, according to a new U.S. study, Reuters reported.

However, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has led to record numbers of infections and hospitalizations, straining the U.S. healthcare system.

Despite the steep spike in COVID cases, the percentage of hospitalized patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) during the current Omicron wave was about 29% lower than during last winter’s surge and some 26% lower than during the Delta wave, the study published on Tuesday in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found.

According to the report the lower COVID-19 disease severity during the Omicron period is likely related to higher vaccination coverage, booster use among those eligible for the extra shots, as well as prior infections providing some immune protection, the study said.

Deaths in the period from Dec. 19 to Jan. 15, when Omicron infections were at a peak, averaged 9 per 1,000 COVID cases, compared to 16 per 1,000 in the previous winter peak and 13 during the Delta wave, the study showed, Reuters reported.

The findings were consistent with previous data analyses from South Africa, England and Scotland, where infections from Omicron peaked earlier than in the United States, the CDC said.

Relatively high hospitalizations among children during the Omicron period may be related to lower vaccination rates compared with adults, the agency said. Children under age 5 are not yet eligible for vaccines in the United States and the rate of vaccination among older children lags that of adults.

The study involved analysis of data from a large healthcare database and three surveillance systems to assess U.S. COVID-19 characteristics from Dec. 1, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2022.

The authors said one limitation of the study was that it was unable to exclude incidental infections in which patients admitted for other reasons test positive for COVID while in the hospital. That may inflate hospitalization-to-case ratios and affect severity indicators, read the report.

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COVID-19

S.Korea’s daily COVID count tops 8,000 for first time as Omicron spreads

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2022)

South Korea’s daily count of new coronavirus cases topped 8,000 for the first time on Tuesday, as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads rapidly despite the recent extension of strict social-distancing rules to slow infection.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 8,571 cases for Monday, exceeding the previous peak posted in mid-December of 7,848, Reuters reported.

The new record came amid the spread of the more transmissible but less deadly Omicron variant, which became dominant in the country last week, and despite less testing over the weekend.

Daily tallies had almost halved to around 4,000 this month but began rebounding last week because of Omicron infections, logging their second-highest level on Saturday.

The surge fuelled worries about a potentially bigger wave ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays when tens of millions of Koreans usually travel across the country for family visits.

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COVID-19

WHO chief says world at ‘critical juncture’ in COVID pandemic

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

The head of the World Health Organization on Monday urged countries to work together to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end, saying that they now have all the tools available to do so, Reuters reported.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical juncture,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference alongside Germany’s development minister Svenja Schulze.

“We must work together to bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end. We cannot let it continue to drag on, lurching between panic and neglect.”

Tedros said on Monday that Germany had become the agency’s largest donor, without giving details. Historically, the United States has made the biggest financial contribution among member states to the organization, read the report.

Schulze said that the top priority of Germany, which took over the G7 Presidency, is to end the pandemic worldwide and called for a “massively accelerated, truly global vaccination campaign” in order to do so.

The event in Geneva kicks off a week of WHO Executive Board meetings where key aspects of the U.N. health agency’s future are due to be discussed, including Tedros’ bid for a second term and a proposal to make the agency more financially independent.

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