Only 53 countries provide data on COVID-19 related deaths: WHO
Geneva: Even as the number of COVID-19 deaths reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) each week has dropped by almost 90% since February last year, the number of weekly reported deaths has been stuck between 10 and 14 thousand deaths per week since mid-September 2022.
Last week, almost 11 500 deaths were reported to WHO – about 40% from the Americas, 30% from Europe and 30% from the Western Pacific region.
“This number is almost certainly an underestimate given the under-reporting of COVID-related deaths in China. The world cannot accept this number of deaths when we have the tools to prevent them,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Most of those dying are at-risk groups, including older people. During the last six months of last year, people aged 65 or over accounted for almost 90% of all reported deaths.
However, the data that WHO receives from countries is inadequate to give a clear picture of who is dying, and why. “Only 53 out of 194 countries provide data on deaths that are disaggregated by age and sex,” revealed Dr Ghebreyesus. “As we enter the fourth year of this pandemic, we ask all countries to provide this data. The more data we have, the clearer a picture we have,” he added.
Nearly 2.9 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the week of January 2 to 8, 2023, which represented a reduction in weekly cases and deaths of 9% and 12%, respectively.
However, in the last 28 days (December 12, 2022, to January 8, 2023), over 13.9 million cases and over 49 000 new deaths were reported globally – an increase of 10% and 22% respectively, compared to the previous 28 days. As of January 8, 2023, over 659 million confirmed cases and over 6.6 million deaths were reported globally.
The highest numbers of new weekly cases are reported from Japan (1 070 496 new cases; +13%), the United States of America (462 944 new cases; +17%), the Republic of Korea (403 800 new cases; -12%), China (204 609 new cases; -6%), and Brazil (145 933 new cases; -29%). The highest numbers of new weekly deaths were reported from the United States of America (2695 new deaths; +8%), Japan (2149 new deaths; +11%), Brazil (926 new deaths; -17%), China (722 new deaths; +11%), and France (621 new deaths; -22%).
At the global level, from December 26, 2022, to January 1, 2023), a total of 23 509 new hospitalizations and 1133 new intensive care unit (ICU) admissions were reported. But only 23 (10%) countries reported data to WHO on new hospitalizations.
It has been now three years since the first sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was shared with the world which enabled the development of the first tests, and ultimately, vaccines.
“Throughout the pandemic, testing and sequencing helped us to track the spread and development of new variants,” the WHO D-G said. But since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90%, and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third.
WHO says it’s understandable that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak. However, it says that at the same time, the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away. Sequencing remains vital to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants, such as XBB.1.5.
“We urge all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences. Investment in testing at-risk people to ensure they receive adequate care and in tracking the virus remains vital,” Dr Ghebreyesus said, urging all countries to focus on fully vaccinating the most at-risk groups, especially older people.
“And we continue to call on all people to take appropriate precautions when necessary to protect themselves and others. You may not die with this disease, but you could give it to someone else who does,” he said.
WHO reiterated that current trends in reported COVID-19 cases were underestimates of the true number of global infections and reinfections.
– global bihari bureau