WHO calls for greater surveillance of emerging coronavirus variants

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The World Health Organization on Wednesday urged governments to step up efforts to quickly identify and study emerging variants of the coronavirus.

Various countries globally have seen their fights against the virus slow down with the emergence of new variants that spread even faster.

“Our collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts,” said Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, Head of WHO’s Research and Development Unit.

Restrepo’s remarks came at a virtual meeting of scientists from around the globe, convened by the UN health agency, attended by over 1,750 experts from 124 countries.

Participants noted the importance of research to detect and understand early on the potential impact of emerging variants on diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, and highlighted the importance of integrating new SARS-CoV-2 variants research into the global research and innovation agenda.

“So far, an astounding 350,000 sequences have been publicly shared, but most come from just a handful of countries. Improving the geographic coverage of sequencing is critical for the world to have eyes and ears on changes to the virus,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19.

The call for greater efforts to identify and study the new coronavirus variants comes as the number of COVID-19 cases globally topped the 91.73 million mark with over 1.96 million deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Countries have now shifted their focus to the acquisition of developed vaccines in efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

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