COVID-19 Deaths At Lowest Level In Nearly A Year, WHO Reports


Although COVID-19 deaths continue to decline,
vaccine inequity persists, the head of the World Health
Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, again calling for
greater support for developing
countries.

Agency chief Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus reported that the death toll from the disease is
now at its lowest level in almost a
year.

“But it’s still an unacceptably high
level – almost 50,000 deaths a week, and the real number
is certainly higher,”
he said,
speaking during the regular WHO briefing
from Geneva.

“Deaths are declining in every region
except Europe, where several countries are facing fresh
waves of cases and deaths. And of course, deaths are highest
in the countries and populations with the least access to
vaccines.”

Tedros appealed for global cooperation.
“Countries that continue to roll out boosters now are
effectively preventing other countries from vaccinating
their most at-risk populations,”he said.

Missing
the mark

As of Wednesday, there were more than 238
million COVID-19 cases
worldwide, and more than 4.8 million deaths.

WHO had
previously pushed governments to vaccinate 10 per cent of
their populations by the end of September, a target which 56
nations missed, most of them in Africa.

Tedros said
even more countries are at risk of missing the 40
per cent target
to be achieved by the end of the
year. Three countries – Burundi, Eritrea and the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – have yet to start
vaccinations.

“About half of the
remaining countries are constrained by supply. They have a
vaccination programme underway, but don’t have enough
supply to accelerate enough to reach the target,” he
said.

Tedros urged countries and companies that
control global vaccine supply to prioritize distribution to
the COVAX
solidarity initiative and the African Vaccine Acquisition
Trust (AVAT).

Meanwhile, WHO and partners are working
with other countries, such as those affected by fragility or
conflict, to strengthen technical and logistical capacity
for vaccine rollout.

“With aggressive and ambitious
action, most of these countries can still reach the 40%
target by the end of this year, or be on a clear pathway to
reaching it.”

Crisis in Tigray

Tedros also
addressed the escalating crisis in northern Ethiopia, where
a nearly year-long war in the Tigray region has left up to
seven million people in urgent need for food and other
assistance.

The conflict has spilled over into
neighbouring Afar and Amhara, further increasing needs and
complicating response efforts. Aid is not reaching the area
“at anywhere close to the levels needed”, he said, and
communications, electricity, other basis services remain cut
off.

WHO and partners are calling for unfettered
access to the affected regions, as the lives of millions of
people are at stake, Tedros told
journalists.

“People with chronic illnesses are
dying due to lack of both food and medicine. Nearly 200,000
children have gone without critical vaccinations,” he
said

“When people do not have enough food, they are
more susceptible to deadly diseases, as well as the threat
of starvation, and that’s what we’re now seeing in
Tigray.”

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